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Yonkers Schools Prepare $536 Million 'Restorative' Budget

Superintendent of Schools Bernard Pierorazio plans to present school board trustees with a $536 million 2013-2014 preliminary spending plan.
Superintendent of Schools Bernard Pierorazio plans to present school board trustees with a $536 million 2013-2014 preliminary spending plan. Photo Credit: Paul Bufano

YONKERS, N.Y. – Yonkers school administrators are finalizing a “restorative” budget, a spending plan that would reinstate several programs and positions cut in years past due to funding shortages.

Superintendent of Schools Bernard Pierorazio will present Board of Education trustees with a $536 million 2013-2014 budget proposal in the upcoming days, an increase of $23 million from the current year.

Pierorazio said Tuesday night the preliminary budget was one of restoration, returning pre-kindergarten programs to a full day, adding pupil support staff, including guidance counselors to all the high schools, and bringing athletic programs “up to par.”

“We cannot move forward without offering our children the services they sorely need and deserve,” Pierorazio told trustees during a meeting of the school board’s Audit, Budget and Finance Committee.

Reinstating the pre-kindergarten program to full day has been a priority of the superintendent’s since the district was forced to cut its program from a full day in 2011.

Funding shortages have also eliminated intramural and junior varsity sports and left schools with significant reductions in pupil support staff.

Trevor Bennett, Vice President of the Board of Education, said that while improvement has been shown, he feared students were being shortchanged.

“We are aligned with restoring those positions and would like to add a few more dollars to that $536 million proposal to ensure we can actually provide our students with the quality education and resources that they need,” he said.

However, reinstating the programs will not be easy as administrators continue to face with a $28 million budget deficit.  There is, however, a possibility that trustees could use the additional fund balance monies to help fill that void, Pierorazio said.

While the district has already budgeted $4 million from the fund balance to be used in the upcoming budget, an external audit found the potential for an additional $12 million to be dedicated towards the proposal, the superintendent said.

If used, that would leave less than 1 percent, or roughly $4 million, remaining in the school’s fund balance.

Regardless, without help from lawmakers in Albany and at City Hall, Pierorazio said the district may come up short in its restoration efforts.

“Even using our fund balance we’re still about $16 million short of our target, which means if we’re not there, we’re not going to be able to restore these programs," he said.

“We have to look to Albany and our city fathers to see if there are additional funds that can be earmarked for education,” he added.

On Tuesday, state Assembly and Senate members released their one-house budget proposal.

In the Assembly, lawmakers proposed a spending plan that dedicates $334 million more to education aid than the governor's plan.  The Senate budget includes increases in state school aid by $415 million above the level proposed by the governor.

Mayor Mike Spano has also said this year’s city budget would reflect additional help for the schools.

But exactly how much additional money Yonkers schools will receive from the two groups remains to be seen.

“We all want our kids to get a great education,” Spano said at a recent town hall meeting. “I want to put those programs back. But it’s not going to be easy."

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