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Candidates Propose Differing Budget Solutions

IRVINGTON, N.Y. – Irvington school board candidates agree that the tax cap will means more cuts to the district budget as mandated costs rise each year, but they disagree on how best to solve the many problems around it.

“We also need to keep in mind we need to look at long-term plans,” Della Lenz said, adding, “We need to plan for our financial future. We're signing these long-term contracts for five, seven years without knowing if we can pay them.”

Incumbents John Dawson and Robyne Camp are running for reelection against challengers Della Lenz, Maria Kashkin and Robyn Kerner. The five candidates debated before a packed room at Irvington High School on Tuesday night. The debate was moderated by the League of Women Voters, with the Irvington PTSA sponsoring.

During his opening statements, Dawson cited many accomplishments during his tenure on the school board, including working on three out of four successful contract negotiations. Lenz stressed her desire to run for a seat on the board to make a difference in the community. Camp expressed how her position helped her serve the community and her desire to continue in that capacity.

Kashkin highlighted her involvement in the school community. Kerner cited her previous stint on the board of education and other community involvements. Kerner and Kashkin, who are running together, said this election was important for the future of the community, especially with many new state mandates and a new superintendent.

Lenz proposed developing a five-year financial plan because she said the best way to address the problem is with planning and not reacting. Kashkin said she would address issues such as transportation and work on improving efficiencies to help reduce costs.

Camp said she would work with labor unions to find ways to save money.

“The fact of the matter is that while our taxes are capped, our labor costs are not,” she said.

Kashkin said the district needed to look at sharing services with neighboring school districts and make revenue generation a top priority. Dawson agreed, saying he had been working to find ways to raise money and share services while on the board. He also noted the past few previous budgets have seen less increases than ever before.

“We have cut just about everything we can to keep it that way,” he said.

All of the candidates were reluctant to promise to stay within the tax cap during the next few years, saying they did not know what was going to happen in the next few years. But they agreed the district should try to stay under the cap in future years if they could.

“It's unfair to the people in the community to ask them to pay” more and more, Camp said.

Candidates disagreed on whether the school district should hire an assistant superintendent for curriculum and personnel while facing cuts in staffing and language programs. Dawson, Kashkin and Kerner said the position was essential with new teacher evaluations and educational standards.

Lenz said she would have deferred the hiring of the position so that the district could keep more programs. Camp said she would not have hired the position for the 2012-13 year because of the budget implications.

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