On Tuesday, we have an opportunity to vote on the New Rochelle School and Library budgets and also to elect School and Library trustees. You can review information about the School budget in this newsletter, and you can review the Library Budget here.

Please take the time to cast your ballot. The polls are open from 7 am to 9 pm. If you are not sure where to vote, then please call 576-4219.

When it comes to voting, every citizen is entitled to make up his or her own mind, but if you are interested in my views, here they are …

YES on School and Library Budgets

My reasons for supporting the School & Library budgets are two-fold:

  • Public Schools and Libraries are absolutely vital to our community. Their value to students and their families is obvious, but these institutions also have a significant impact on local property values and on our civic image. Even those who do not directly utilize public school or library services have a stake in protecting their quality.
  • The New Rochelle Public Schools and Library are highly efficient. The New Rochelle Schools spend less than almost all the districts of Westchester County, ranking 41st out of 43 in expenditures per pupil, while providing quality instruction to a remarkably diverse student body. Meanwhile, the New Rochelle Library is among Westchester’s busiest, yet Library funding per capita is the sixth lowest in the county.

Keep in mind that voting “no” would just barely reduce your tax bill. A School contingency budget (which might result from voters rejecting the full budget) would save the average taxpayer only about $57 per year, at the cost of limiting community access to school facilities and defunding programs and equipment from which a great number of students benefit. Diminished school quality and reduced community access in exchange for about one dollar per week? Not a good deal.

There’s no doubt that property taxes are at crisis levels, but this crisis can’t be solved primarily by local action. The crisis is rooted in New York State’s overall school funding policies, retirement benefits set in Albany, and a host of other factors beyond the control of any Board of Education. Don’t get me wrong: localities have a responsibility to do what they can (see my recent posts on this subject). But if you hope to reduce your tax bill, voting “no” for Schools largely misses the mark. State-wide reform is the real answer.

For Library Trustee: Bo Kemp and Greg Varian

This is an easy one. Mr. Varian and Mr. Kemp are highly qualified, hard-working, smart, and committed to the Library. They are also both running unopposed, so the outcome of the election is a foregone conclusion. But even if they were facing vigorous opposition, I would be proud to endorse them.

For School Board: Naomi Brickell, Rachel Relkin and Colin Thomas (Pick Two)

The School Board contest is a lot more complicated. Six candidates are running for two seats. Five of these candidates demonstrate a positive and constructive approach to the challenges of public education. And among these five, three have run strong campaigns that give them a realistic chance to win. I urge you to vote for any two of these three candidates:

Naomi Brickell has a record of volunteer participation and leadership in our schools that is second to none. She has devoted countless hours to various PTAs and possesses an especially clear understanding of the challenges associated with special education.

Rachel Relkin would bring to the Board her legal skills as an attorney and her life experience as the mother of two school-age kids. She has a collaborative, inclusive style and an unselfish belief in public service that is all-too-rare in these sometimes cynical times.

Colin Thomas is a professional educator, currently serving as a high school principal in the Bronx. He has a real grasp of the tools that can support and motivate student performance, and he’s been a committed volunteer within the New Rochelle community.

All three of these candidates appreciate the critical importance of public education. All three are determined to protect the interests of taxpayers. And all three have pledged to support transparent and accountable administration.

There is one additional dynamic in the School Board election about which you deserve to know. This recent letter to the editor in New Rochelle Patch states the matter quite clearly, and I bring it to your attention, in case it helps you sort through your choices.

Remember that you are entitled to support TWO candidates. If you vote for only one, then you are throwing away an opportunity to influence the outcome of the School election. Be sure to vote for two candidates.

Well, that’s it, and if you’ve read this far, then I appreciate your taking the time to consider my input. Whether you agree with my recommendations or not, please remember to vote on Tuesday, and urge your friends and neighbors to do so as well:[raw]