Rockland County, NY - East Ramapo Is Only District To Vote Down School Budget
Rockland County, NY - Voters in New York’s lower Hudson Valley’s fifty four school districts turned out yesterday to approve proposed budgets for the upcoming school year, with one notable exception: Rockland County’s East Ramapo School District, which encompasses New Square and the greater Monsey area.
With 22,000 private school students in a district that numbers 30,000 children, East Ramapo’s demographics are unlike any other school district in the United States. The annual school budget vote, which also includes electing school board members, is always a highly contested event, with parents of yeshiva students coming out in droves to have their voices heard, and this year voters rejected the proposed $191.9 million budget by a vote of 7,798 to 5,742.
Winners in yesterday’s school board election were Yonah Rothman, Jacob Lefkowitz and incumbent Eli Solomon, which brings the number of Orthodox Jews on the nine person school board up to seven.
With union contracts up for renewal this year, the newly elected board hopes to renegotiate contracts in a way that will better accommodate all students in the district.
“This is a unique district,” Jacob Lefkowitz told VIN News. “East Ramapo used to have 20,000 students enrolled in its public schools but they never adjusted to the fact that their enrollment is considerably lower and they are going to have to find ways to cut the fat from the budget. Teachers in East Ramapo average salaries of $120,000 a year and pay considerably less in health care than teachers in other school districts. There are 20,000 heimishe families paying school taxes and we need to do a better job allocating those funds between all students in the district, not just the ones enrolled in our public schools.”
The newly elected board also hopes to lobby Albany for a change in the way funds are distributed to school districts. Currently the state allocates funding only for children who are enrolled in the school district. In the case of East Ramapo, that means that state funding is divided among 30,000 students while funding is only being received for the 8,000 public school students.
“By changing the state’s formula to allocate funding for all children registered in the school district, East Ramapo would receive funding for all 30,000 students, which would ease much of the financial burden on the district,” explained Lefkowitz.
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