By KATIE HOOS
The Mamaroneck Union Free School District will reinstate six full-time staff positions that were on the chopping block as part of the 2014-2015 preliminary budget thanks to additional state aid and strong community support for at least one of the proposed eliminations.
On April 7, Superintendent Dr. Robert Shaps recommended several revisions to the school district budget, including the restoration of six full-time equivalent positions of the 21.25 positions the district was initially looking to cut.
The restored positions include 4.5 teacher aides for kindergarten classes, 0.5 audio visual technicians and one youth liaison worker.
According to Meryl Rubenstein, the assistant superintendent for business operations, the district was awarded an additional $183,002 in state aid stemming from the recent passage of the New York State budget. The school board also re-examined interest revenues for the next school year and projected a $15,000 increase, bringing the total additional revenues to $198,002.
Superintendent Shaps said the additional revenue, as well as $545,000 in expenditure reductions provided the opportunity to make changes in the budget.
“We received additional state aid and saw savings and expenditure reductions, so we looked at the budget and made priorities and recommendations to restore some programs and personnel,” Shaps said.
The restoration of one position in particular, a youth liaison worker—a position held by Keith Yizar—followed strong public opposition in which several members of the community urged the district to maintain Yizar’s role.
Yizar, a 29-year veteran in the district, works as an advisor and mentor to at-risk youth in Mamaroneck High School. But two years before his retirement, Yizar’s role was in limbo after the district made the proposed staffing cuts in order to remain under the state mandated tax levy cap of 1.81.
Members of the community, current and former students contacted the district administration to advocate for Yizar, according to Shaps.
In a letter also sent to the Review, Larchmont resident Harold Wolfson asked Shaps to reconsider the cut as he believes Yizar is an important asset to the student community.
“I, and many others, believe this is a mistake,” Wolfson wrote. “Over the years, [Yizar] has helped turn around hundreds of youngsters who might otherwise have fallen through the cracks.”
Knowing the district had additional money available, Shaps recommended the board reinstate Yizar’s position—which accounts for $125,261 in the budget—for the upcoming budget year.
The 4.5 teacher aide positions account for a total $84,133 of the budget and the half-time audio visual technician position accounts for $27,000 of the budget.
In addition to the six reinstated positions, Shaps recommended the school board restore the co-op camp program—a six-week summer program for elementary and middle school students—high school summer school, extra-curricular activities at the middle school and high school levels, special education contingency and maintain bussing services for private parochial school students in grades six through eight for the 2014-2015 school year.
As a result of the additional revenue and readjusted personnel and programs, the tax levy was reduced by $37,208 to $115,288,418, which equates to a 1.77 percent tax levy increase—a decrease from the initial proposed tax levy increase of 1.80 percent.
Wolfson and Yizar could not be reached for comment as of press time.