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Port Chester Daily Voice serves Port Chester, NY

New Port Chester School Budget Cuts Reading Program

PORT CHESTER, N.Y. – The Port Chester school district's newest budget proposal restores full-day kindergarten and John F. Kennedy Magnet School's Early Learning Center to the 2012-13 budget, with reading support services taking their place on the chopping block.

The new budget proposal is to scale back reading support services by eliminating eight to 14 reading instructors, a move that could save the district up to $1.4 million.

According to Schools Superintendent Edward Kliszus, the decision to spare the Early Learning Center alters the formula that calculates the district's tax levy cap and allows the district to raise the levy from 1.94 percent to 2.7 percent.

This change in the levy adds $423,000 to the Port Chester-Rye Union Free School District's 2012-13 expenditures, bringing total spending to $81.3 million, and reduces the budget deficit to $1.7 million. The district's recent settlements with the administrators and civil service unions – both groups agreed to switch to a single health insurance provider – save the district $334,000 off the deficit.

"Reading teachers play a vital role in the education of our students," board member Carolee Brakewood said. "We respect them, we value them, and we want them to remain on staff. Our reading teachers are the current victims of our budget crisis."

Members of the public came out in droves to support the reading teachers and lobbied the board to reconsider. Lindsay Macri, a Port Chester High School graduate and special education teacher, spoke about the importance of reading specialists.

"It breaks my heart to think of what September may bring without the district's reading specialists," Macri said. "Port Chester should consider themselves blessed that we can provide the classroom teachers and students the necessary accommodations to reach their needs."

Kliszus and members of the board stressed that the budget is not yet final, and that there is still time to mitigate potential cuts before the budget is adopted April 19. Kliszus ended his presentation by encouraging members of the public to come out and vote for the budget on May 15.

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