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Latimer: Port Chester Letters Make Aid Possible

PORT CHESTER, N.Y. – State Assembly member George Latimer (D-Rye) has a lot of reading to do. After imploring members of the Port Chester community to embark on a letter writing campaign in December, Latimer has received more than 3,000 letters from Port Chester parents, teachers, residents and students lobbying for an increase in state aid.

"I've gotten everything from letters written by children with pictures drawn on them to two page notes from teachers and parents," Latimer said Monday night. "It's been all over the ballpark."

The district currently faces a $2.1 million budget deficit and in order to make it up, the district has proposed moving to half-day kindergarten, eliminating 30 full-time positions and closing the Early Learning Center at JFK Magnet School.

With the 2 percent tax cap in place , the only way the district can avoid cuts would be a bump in state aid. According to Latimer, the Assembly is considering shifting more than $250 million previously set aside in competitive grant funding into need base state aid. Ultimately the decision won't be rendered until the budget vote on Thursday.

Latimer remains optimistic about the outcome and credits the village's aggressive letter writing campaign as one of the principal reasons why state aid is still being considered.

"I've never seen anything like this, it's a tremendous outpouring," Latimer said. "The letters were essential—if there wasn’t a demonstration we would be dead. There is no guarantee that we get a dime more, but we wouldn’t be this far down line if this effort wasn't made."

Latimer said he believes Port Chester schools will be one of the districts set to benefit if the money is transferred from competitive grants to need-based state aid.

"Port Chester has a legitimate case," Latimer said. "Whatever that (state aid) number is, it should be enough for me to get Port Chester on the table."

Currently in his fourth term in the Assembly, Latimer announced last week he will run this year for the New York State Senate in the 37th District.

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