By CHRIS EBERHART
The 2014-2015 Eastchester school budget passed by more than a two-to-one margin, and incumbent Board of Education members Robert Summer, Willa Brody Hughes and Vito Catania are returning to the board after the May 20 vote and uncontested election.
Eastchester Superintendent Walter Moran III thanked the voters.
“I wish to express my deep appreciation to the Eastchester community for the passage of the 2014-15 school budget. In these difficult economic times, the community’s continuing support for our educational programs and initiatives is truly gratifying,” Moran said.
The $77.4 million budget, which was approved by 69 percent of the total 1,579 votes casted, represented a $1.6 million increase over the 2013-2014 school budget and carried a 3.21 percent tax levy increase, which is in-line with the 3.21 percent state-imposed tax levy cap.
In order to stay compliant with the cap, the budget originally called for $894,000 worth of cuts, including five full-time equivalent teachers, 1.2 full-time equivalent teaching assistants and 4.1 full-time equivalent support staff along with reductions in printing and mailing, which Moran said will save the district an estimated $20,000.
The budget process leading up to the April 8 adoption looked bleak in terms of state aid.
Moran said the district anticipated $4.6 million in state aid. But, because of the gap elimination adjustment, which is anticipated state aid that was withheld by the state to balance its own budget, Moran only expected to receive $3.9 million.
Eastchester, like many schools in New York State, received additional funding after the state budget passed on March 31, which bumped the state aid from $3.9 million to $4.35 million.
The district was able to use the extra state funding to cushion the blow of staffing cuts—saving two full-time equivalent teacher positions, 1.8 teaching assistants and 1.1 staff members—and allowed the district to add two new positions and two sixth-grade courses.
The added positions include a middle school custodian to supplement a new wing added to the school and a district-wide technology director, who will ease the school district into transitioning to a Wi-Fi environment.
The money not used on personnel was allotted to fund two sixth-grade electives, STEM—science technology engineering and math—and a “Public Speaking and Digital Video Production” class that aims to improve students’ communication and introduce them to the film and TV industry.
The community showed support for the school district’s budget and for three current Board of Education members who ran for re-election following the expiration of their three-year terms.
Catania, who works as a staff manager in the Information Technology Department at Verizon, was the leading vote getter with 1,159 votes and will serve his sixth term.
He was followed by the 1,146 votes received by Brody Hughes, who directs government and community relations for the New York Presbyterian Hospital’s six campuses and will be serving her fourth full term after being appointed to the board in 2004.
Current board president Summer, who works as a personal-injury lawyer, received 1,138 votes and will serve his third term.
After the results were in, Summer thanked the voters for supporting him and the budget.
“The passage of the budget is recognition that the schools are the heart of our community,” Summer said. “Despite the ongoing assault on funding for public schools and local control, the community has expressed its confidence in the education we are providing for our children. This community has a history of supporting the school budgets when the need is well demonstrated and should be proud of its vote.”
Board of Education members are elected to serve three-year terms.