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Peekskill Schools Face Challenging Times in 2013-2014 Budget

Peekskill school officials gave a forecast on the budget picture for 2013-2014 during Tuesday's school board meeting.

Need a pick me up?

Then stop reading. The budget discussion during Tuesday’s Peekskill school board meeting was anything but upbeat.

“There is no good news,” James Willis, Peekskill’s superintendent of schools, said Tuesday.

Willis said the district was looking at a budget gap of about $700,000 heading into this year. But with rising pension costs, dwindling fund balance reserves and other factors, Willis said that budget gap has widened.

“There are a number of things that you won’t see because we don’t have the numbers yet,” Willis said.

Willis said district officials are hopeful that Gov. Andrew Cuomo increases state aid by 4 percent, which is 1 percent more than district officials were counting on. Even if school aid is increased by 4 percent statewide, Willis said there are still questions as to how those funds get divvied up among school districts.

“We don’t know that,” Willis said. “We’ll see that by the end of the month.”

There are also questions regarding health care costs and whatever revenue making proposals that come through BOCES.

Joseph Mosey, the district’s assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, said he touched base with Father John Higgins of the Assumption School in Peekskill Monday. Although the Catholic Archdiocese has yet to make an official announcement, Higgins told Mosey that the school is likely closing at the end of this school year.

There are about 200 students currently enrolled at the Assumption School.

“We have to figure out what that cost is going to be,” Willis said.

Willis also said the district had to figure out the costs associated with the vacant Uriah Hill building, which will likely have to be opened due to overcrowding as some the district’s other schools. Willis is also hopeful that the district will get Medicaid reimbursements for its special-needs students.

Gregory Sullivan, superintendent of Peekskill schools, said the school district might be looking at a more than $930,000 pension increases alone.  He also warned that the district risked depleting its fund balance if expenditures aren’t restructured or new revenue sources aren’t found.

Willis said spending in the district has already been frozen and that he reviews every expenditure request that’s made.

“We’re not focusing on cuts at this point in time because it’s too early to do that,” Willis said. “We don’t know enough of the picture yet.”

Willis added that district staffing is already barebones and that it will be difficult to find any additional cuts.

"We can't afford to cut anymore staff with the way we deliver education today," Willis said.

Joseph Urbanowicz, president of the Peekskill school board, said the district needed to begin coming up with a list of best and worst case scenarios to present to the public.

“If the best case scenario, let’s say we get a $1 million [budget] gap, we've got to get right to work on that as a board,” Urbanowicz said. “We need to start thinking about what that process is going to look like.”

Urbanowicz suggested that the district start communicating with employees and the community to start looking for solutions. He added that the board only has until April 16 before it has to approve a budget.

“That’s two months away,” Urbanowicz said. 

FYI January 09, 2013 at 12:20 PM
The cost will be megalithic for taxpayers. How about start by going door to door and actually checking to see if an enrolled child lives at the stated address, and not Ossining, Tarrytown or other. It's pretty easy to get a letter from a "landlord" for $100 testifying to that end, as well as any other required residency paperwork. Then, I'd suggest the City really enforce the overcrowding codes. Start fining the property owners who violate the codes in so-called "single family" homes. Perhaps some of that money could be channeled to finance our overburdened school coffers. The fact that last fall, 63 unexpected kindergarteners showed up during a nationwide birthrate decrease seemed a surprise to many, or at least, to those that noticed. How were they not reported on 2010 census numbers so the schools might plan and budget ahead? And of course, Uriah Hill is going to reopen and be restaffed, reheated, etc. And that won't come cheap, nor will all those newly requested free breakfasts and lunches and/or buses.
peekskillman January 09, 2013 at 01:25 PM
FYI nailed it. Check the status of all the students before they are admitted form the parochial schools. While doing that, also check on those receiving "aid", while being dropped of in luxury suvs or high end cars. And while we are at it, make the school board more accountable for their actions, such as putting an addition to uriah hill a few years ago at a cost of millions, oly to shut it down last year. Now it is needed again? go back to the old neighborhood schools, it worked so well for many years. If anything has to be cut, start with the sports and before and after school programs. the children are in school to learn, and the district should not be in the babysitting business. the taxpayers can only take so much
Beach Girl January 09, 2013 at 01:49 PM
@FYI .... believe me, people are Not knocking down the doors, to send there kids to Peekskill. Do i agree that we need to monitor people , who are recieving aid and dont Need it ! Maybe PEekskill needs do do a lil housecleaning of their own , Staff tht makes top $$$$$$ ... who are not doin the Job !!! It all starts from the top and trinkles down .
sayitsnotsojack January 09, 2013 at 02:23 PM
Same old company line from the education planet, those huge pension increases, time to stop them, those huge administrators salaries, time to stop them, those huge teachers salaries for working 180 days a year time to make them work more, and produce more. Yes Virginia you can make sports and clubs, self-paying if not, they can be done away with. People in education have long lived on another planet, now they must live on earth like the rest of us. No more turf fields, mega auditoriums, change the job descriptions of teachers while you are at it.
sayitsnotsojack January 09, 2013 at 02:50 PM
Got that correct a fish stinks from the head down to the tail.
Jill Gertz January 09, 2013 at 06:57 PM
There's never a mention of the huge impact illegal immigration is having on Peekskill. They've crushed the schools in the last decade. There were 181 Hispanic students in Woodside in 2009. In 2010 there were 417. There was close to 700 students total when Woodside used to average around 450. Now the Assumption kids (who weren't paying tuition evidently) will get moved over. Peekskill has just become a colony of foreigners with people who want free free free. bad combo when the party in charge is mostly about the handouts others are supposed to pay for http://www.schooldigger.com/go/NY/schools/2265003184/school.aspx
FYI January 10, 2013 at 02:10 AM
Beach Girl, It isn't about sending your kids to Peekskill Schools, it's about getting a FREE education for your kids regardless of parochial or public. If you're stiffing our local govt in overcrowded housing, then you don't/your landlord doesn't pay your fair share. If you work under the table, you most likely don't pay your fair share. Sure, it might not be Scarsdale or Chappaqua, but it's free. If you only have a 2nd or 3rd grade education, free K-12 with free meals for your kids looks pretty good. Free, as in, paid for by Peekskill taxpayers (60% of our local tax burden). And at $22,000 per year, per kid on average, that could be a lot for our backs to bear. Perhaps this article should really read: Peekskill Taxpayers to Face Challenging Times in 2013-2014.
Kirsten Berger January 10, 2013 at 03:12 AM
Jill, and why is this a problem? Do you have a problem with Hispanics? Have you forgotten that we are all descended from immigrants, aka foreigners? How do you even know all the kids are illegal? They could've been born here, which makes them citizens. Legal or not, these kids are required by law to go to school because they live in the US. My kids go to the Peekskill schools ( prek and 3rd grade) and one is in the dual language program. My son, at the age of 8, is learning Spanish much faster than he would've if he started in high school. Half of his instructional day is in Spanish, so he learns it by immersion. This is possible BECAUSE of the large number of Spanish speaking students in the district. Other districts (like the one where my husband teaches) wishes they could do this but they can't because of the demographic. Has the population affected the schools? I don't think so. I think the families are very motivated for their kids to learn. I see them at the local library, whole families show up at school events, more than I can say for other groups of the population. Also, remember this, immigrants do pay taxes so this means that they aren't getting schooling for free ( it's only free if you don't have to pay a school tax).
Kirsten Berger January 10, 2013 at 03:17 AM
Check out the article on the Croton school budget. It says they have a budget of 43.4 million. With our budget of 700,000, we have nothing to complain about in terms of dollars. What is a shame is that because of the low budget, the district doesn't have the funds for things like enrichment programs for kids who are fast learn ears, something I would bet the Croton schools do have.
peekskillman January 10, 2013 at 08:54 PM
come on Kirsten, get your head out of the sand and take a look around. How can you honestly say that in light of what is happening in the City and therefore the school dist? The district, starting with the administration of Judith Johnson, failed to do due diligence in checking the status of all students, whether the are legal citizens, or just live somewhere else, all in the name of "student aid" While I applaud your child for being able to learn another language, under what reason is it dictated that it has to be Spanish?? what about all the other languages spoken in Peekskill? Seems to me that in order to pacify those that may or may not be here legally, a choice was made arbitrarily to push this as a "second" language. I have a suggestion: since this is the USA, and since the majority speaks ENGLISH, perhaps those that cant communicate in ENGLISH, learn to do so before they take up time and resources relegating ENGLISH as a second language. Seems to me that this is the direction that the Board should take. Look what is happening to the Assumption school as a result of the demographics there.
Liz Claire January 10, 2013 at 09:19 PM
I don't know what rock you people live under, but Catholic school is not free. We pay in excess of $14k in taxes. most of it to a school district we won't send our kids to, then we pay for Catholic education on top of it. It's a corrupt system. Assumption relied on the archdiocese to pay for it, and the eunuchs for Christ have to live with themselves for closing the school. They are protecting their pensions. Not Christian at all. So called men of God are self-interested above everything else. Too bad for the kids who could walk to school as they should, regardless of race. But this decision is all about the church hierarchy imposing their will to advance their own self interest. It's as if they never have read the gospels.
Kirsten Berger January 10, 2013 at 09:21 PM
Peekskillman, do you currently have children in the Peekskill elementary schools? If you don't, please withhold judgement. I am so sick of people dissing on the schools because of hearsay. My head is not in the sand. I may not be in tune with what happens with the administration but I do see what is going on in the schools, through what my kids are doing and what my friends kids are doing. My friends and I are part of a demographic that would normally send their kids to private school instead of the Peekskill schools, but we like what we are seeing and we strongly believe in public education. Additionally, the dual language program also serves the purpose of teaching Spanish speaking kids English through immersion because they experience instruction in English. The program also fosters cross-cultural exchange and understanding in effort to eliminate bigotry. If you are worried about kids not learning English well enough, not all kids are in the dual language program. It is only for those who can handle the workload. Otherwise, the kids are in an English only class. Access to ESL is available to all. With the increase in the number of Spanish speakers in this country, Spanish is the most useful language to learn right now. I grew up speaking German and I learned French in high school but that's not doing much good these days as far as knowing a useful second language. In regards to immigration status, I don't think it's legal for school's to check on that.
Jill Gertz January 10, 2013 at 10:02 PM
"Jill, and why is this a problem? Do you have a problem with Hispanics? Have you forgotten that we are all descended from immigrants, aka foreigners?" Of course its a problem. No respectable country just allows itself to be invaded by millions of people. America is not a fatted cow for the rest of the world to plunder. People didn't die in Europe and the Pacific, and pay taxes their whole lives so that foreigners could break in and plunder benefits meant for them and their decedents. America is not the global welfare office. I see no reason the "celebrate" the invasion because yous son now gets Spanish lessons. That sounds pretty vapid. Maybe the Chinese can invade and your son cam learn Mandarin. My relatives came to America while obeying the laws and the culture. They also didn't get on food stamps and bankrupt hospitals. I would also be against millions of Americans breaking into Mexico, Ecuador etc. Unlike you I have respect for the law and don't just measure things by what I get out of it - like Spanish lessons. When Peekskill seniors can afford their homes because the taxes going up to pay for invaders I'm sure they will feel better knowing Kristen's kid is getting Spanish practice. Many studies show the illegals pay no where near what they consume.
Jill Gertz January 10, 2013 at 10:04 PM
"I don't know what rock you people live under, but Catholic school is not free" It is when the school waves the tuition in full or in part. That's the Assumptions problem. Enrollment is fine - its been stable for over a decade. Too many families just don't pay the tutiion.
FYI January 11, 2013 at 12:15 AM
To get back to subject and the point of the Patch story, we all need to keep our eyes and ears open to what's about to happen to our school taxes, because I'd wager they're about to jump, bigtime. If Assumption closes, and let's say, only 100 kids use the Peekskill School system along with the 63 kindergarteners that it doesn't sound like were part of the 2012 budget, that's roughly a $3.6 million increase to our school tax burden. Who's going to pay it? And who will pay to replenish all the classroom equipment that was sold off when Uriah closed---desks, etc.? Get your checkbooks out, Peekskill taxpayers.
FYI January 11, 2013 at 12:41 AM
Kirsten: $700,000 is the budget gap. The actual cost for this school year is about $75,500,000 if the numbers I'm seeing on the above chart are correct. from the article: "Willis said the district was looking at a budget gap of about $700,000 heading into this year."
hunter for life January 11, 2013 at 12:51 AM
Cant believe im goin to say this >>>> I have to agree with jill And peekskillman .
Kirsten Berger January 11, 2013 at 08:53 PM
Jill Gertz, in case you have forgotten your history lessons, many of the people that immigrated to the US came here "illegally." The English, the Irish, the Polish, the Italians.....and what we have here is history repeating itself. With each influx of a new immigrant group, the previous groups feel threatened and will always find something wrong with them. Currently, it's the Latin American immigrants that are the targeted group. Xenophobia, it's the American way.
peekskillman January 11, 2013 at 09:31 PM
Kirsten have you read the story on the guidance counselors? couldnt have come at a more appropriate time; wonder how much more this is going to cost the taxpayers. And yes, all my children went to Peekskill school, on to higher education, and are doing well for themselves. I too went to PCSD, back when languages were offered, such as French, Italian, Spanish and even Latin. I say offered because there was a choice of various languages, not just one due to the fact that here is a larger demographic group. In my day, if an individual did not comprehend the language, they took remedial reading, writing, etc, to become proficient in English. In today's politically correct world, everything (including the note from the Supt) is in Spanish, why is that, and why not in any of the other languages spoken in the schools or city? More costs for translation, aides,etc. At least the people whom you accused of coming here illegally had the decency to learn English; I would go so far as to even say that many of these groups would have shuddered at the thought of a handout or any of the "free" (for them) goodies that these people receive, on our dime and dollar I might add. Years ago, it was an asset to know Chinese or Japanese to do well in the business world; I dont remember the PCSD having these languages in "immersion" classes. Why was that? They get away with the USA freebies because they know they can (see your last sentence)
Jill Gertz January 11, 2013 at 09:37 PM
America has done better at immigration that almost any other nation. You enjoy a preoccupation with American xenophobia because you think it justifies your total disregard for orderly immigration. You pat yourself on the back while chaos and anarchy take place. For the record I think many of the illegals are better than most Americans (even if the illegals are prejudiced against blacks who they feel threatened by). At no time in US history could other countries send their criminals here with such ease. Same with the sick and America now doesn't even follow sensible quarantine protocols. At no time could illegals siphon off many public benefits. There were no food stamps in 1880. Now Obama advertises food stamps in Mexico to lure more hand-out oriented voters here. There is a difference between being virtuously generous and foolishly giving away the store to feel good about yourself on the public dime "Obama USDA met 30 times with Mexican gov’t to promote food-stamp use among Mexican immigrants" http://dailycaller.com/2012/10/01/obama-usda-met-30-times-with-mexican-govt-to-promote-food-stamp-use-among-mexican-immigrants/
Cremlock Dregs January 11, 2013 at 09:38 PM
Peekskillman hit the nail on the head. Lots of languages are spoken here but for some reason Spanish is the one being pushed. And it's not just being pushed. It's being imposed, which makes it a lot different from taking elective French or German of some other language. Why are election ballots in Spanish and not in Russian or Polish? For the sole reasons of the influx of the Hispanicos and the cowardly politicans who want their vote. The lesson to be learned is clear: might makes right. If you get enough of your fellow foreigners here, you can force America to teach your kids your foreign language and you can get election ballots printed in your foreign language. This is antithetical to the whole concept of America. Here, right makes might, not the other way around. The Hispanicos are trying to muscle us. But as the great ENGLISHMAN Isaac Newton said, for each and every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. If you love Spanish so much, stay in Puerto Rico, you dirty hypocrites. Or if you come here (probably illegally) at least admit your own country is a cesspool. But you have no right to eat our food and wave your dirty, nasty Dominican flag in our faces at the same time. You can't have it both ways, Pablo. No you can't, I say. Clean up your act and stop fouling our shores with your nastiness. It was GEORGE Washington, not JORGE!
JM January 11, 2013 at 10:23 PM
You know what Kirsten? Human life began in central Africa -- hundreds of thousands of years ago. Therefore, everyone since the, outside of those few countries defined by rebel forces today, are foreigners -- U.S., Canada, Germany, France, China, Australia included -- using that logic, at least. However, in 2012, I am not from foreigners, my mom was born in L.A., her dad born in St. Louis and mom born in Canada, my dad his mom and dad both born in NY. We are talking nearly 80 years now. I was born in L.A. Most whites and blacks living today in the U.S. are not foreigners either as they and their parents and grandparents were born here. Those from south of the border who are present on our soil today are foreigners. You need to convince me how much they pay in taxes, firstly, and how much they assimilate into our culture and make the U.S.A. a better place, secondly, before using such an argument about being kind to Hispanics. Then you need to convince me that so-called Hispanics haven't figure out how to come here and live under the radar unlike those from Europe 100 and 200 years ago...before I even remotely consider paying to teach people English on my tax dime. Come here, fine; live here, fine; but come with perfect English or pay a private tutor and come expecting to pay half your wage in income taxes like the rest of us. Or stay home. That is life in the U.S.
peekskillman January 13, 2013 at 03:19 AM
JM--one of the best and most articulate arguments that Ive read to date. Bravo. I couldnt have said or thought it better. Im interested in reading how the "other " side can respond to your thoughtful post. Well done!!
D. Carry April 11, 2013 at 08:19 PM
I love how people who graduated from Peekskill highschool 20 years ago defend this crap hole school. I would never in a million years send my kid to a school with a graduation rate at 60 percent, and 14 percent white children population. Culturally diverse? Who are you kidding? Diversity means mixed. There is nothing mixed about being one of two blond little kids in your class. Seriously, my kid would get his butt kicked in that school. Probably come out all screwed up from being around thugs. I'm soooooooo tired of people defending that town. I've lived there, I've done my research, I tried to "accept" it, and now I'm over it. Clean up Peekskill or us middle class, tax paying folks with families are going to keep moving due to your joke of a school district.

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