Poughkeepsie school taxes likely to increase

POUGHKEEPSIE – A myriad of budget woes are going to have a significant impact on the Poughkeepsie City School District (PCSD), including a potential 3.9% tax increase for the upcoming budget.  The original workup of the budget called for a 4.9% tax increase.

District Superintendent Dr. Eric Rosser and William Hogan, the PCSD Interim Chief Operations Officer gave an update on the budget issues to the school board late last week that include major staff cuts, possible elimination of the district’s alternative high school, and cutting interscholastic sports, including the basketball team that recently won the state championship.

One reason for the district’s budget crisis is because the current budget was underestimated by approximately $3 million dollars, according to Rosser.  Coupled with a $1.5 million dollar reduction in state funding and the loss of grant funding that has covered the salaries of four elementary school principals in the amount of $580,000, the financial forecast is not promising for the district.  District leaders have attributed a portion of the expected increase to contractual obligations facing the district.  One such obligation is the upcoming contractual salary increases are going to cost the district an additional $1.1 million dollars.  In addition to salary increases are the contracts with outside vendors that supply the district with products and services.

A portion of Dr. Rosser’s latest budget update.

Of the cuts proposed by Rosser, 33 teacher positions will be eliminated along with 11 administrators.  Two of the administrators slated for elimination are the principal and assistant principal for PACE, the district’s alternative high school.  PCSD spokesperson Irwin Goldberg said “One such impact would be the proposal to discontinue the district-sponsored alternative program. While under this scenario we would eliminate our alternative education program known as PACE, we are not eliminating the service it provides.”  Goldberg added ” We have identified alternatives to address the loss of district-sponsored programming. One such alternative is the Dutchess BOCES Alternative High School on Dutchess Turnpike.”  The BOCES school referred to is the BETA school operated by BOCES.

Teacher Heather Martino, President of the Poughkeepsie Public School Teachers’ Association said of the cuts, “It’s going to be devastating,” adding that the proposals will “lead to larger class sizes, less student participation, and it will likely cause a more disruptive learning environment for the students.”

Asked why the district did not intend to continue the path of a larger tax increase, Goldberg said “Given the condition of the financial landscape, it was decided that raising the tax levy to 4.9 percent would place a burden on the taxpayers. School budgets are constructed to provide balance between what the district needs while taking into consideration those we serve, our taxpayers.”

Rosser and the school board will have a meeting to present the final budget on Tuesday, May 19, at 5:30 PM.  Information on the agenda and the opportunity to watch the live broadcast can be found here.

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