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Port Chester School Board Forum Focuses on Tax Cap

PORT CHESTER, N.Y. – Discussion at Tuesday evening's Port Chester-Rye Union Free School District Board of Education candidate forum centered on the impacts and challenges presented by the newly imposed 2 percent property tax levy cap.

The election, which will take place on May 15 inside of the Port Chester Middle School auditorium, pits three candidates vying for two open spots.

The three candidates are retired Port Chester educator Tom Corbia, longtime board of education member Jim Dreves and current board of education President Blanca Lopez.

Current school board member Carolee Brakewood, along with Doris Reavis, asked the panel if they would consider an override of the 2 percent property tax cap. The panel agreed that overriding the tax cap is not the answer.

Lopez said it is important for the board to seek internal answers before asking the public to override the cap.

“The taxpayer is expecting us to work this out internally. It's not fair to them that we would even think about” an override this year, Lopez said.

Dreves, a school board member since the early 90s, said that in theory the tax cap is not a bad thing.

The tax cap “is sending us a message, you've got to live within your means and I agree with that,” Dreves said.

Corbia said that he would not have overridden the tax cap because he believe it is unsupported by the taxpayers.

In addition to the current and future effects of the tax cap, the board's adopted budget cuts 13.5 reading teachers, the panel also discussed ways to resolve negotiations between the board and the teacher's union, which, after declaring negotiations at an impasse in March, returned to the table two weeks ago.

Corbia said that striking a deal between the district and the teachers is his number one priority and promised that if elected, he would get it done.

"We have to get the PCTA on board," Corbia said. "We need trained negotiators on the board. I'm that man, I'll take charge of that."

Both Dreves and Lopez, who were designated by the board to negotiate with the unions, said that negotiating is an art that takes time.

"I think employees understand the hardships but negotiating is based on give and take," Lopez said. "It's hard to put a timeline on it but we are all negotiating in good faith."

"I wish I could guarantee a settlement, I would do it now," Dreves said. "I will reiterate what Ms. Lopez said, it is a time consuming and difficult job, and it takes everyone to agree. We as a board are willing to meet at any time for any length of time, and have."

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