Poughkeepsie Mayor, School Superintendent: We Need Federal Aid
The mayor of Poughkeepsie, New York and the superintendent of the city’s school district are pleading for direct federal aid to help plug large budget deficits and continue services. The area’s Congressional representatives say they are pushing for such aid in the next COVID-19 relief package.
During a recent Facebook live town hall, Republican Poughkeepsie Mayor Rob Rolison and Poughkeepsie Schools Superintendent Dr. Eric Rosser said federal aid is crucial.
“We let the public know a few weeks ago that we’re facing in our general fund budget of about a $5.5 million shortfall, and that’s because of a loss of revenue that we’re already seeing, and we’re not going to see change in the near future. We have identified $1.5 million in cuts to the budget to help close the shortfall but that’s $1.5 [million] of $5.5 [million], but the gap obviously is still significant. At this time, in Phase 1 of the cuts, there are no layoffs at this time, but this is a situation which is very fluid, and I want to be very clear on something, and I know that you’re seeing it looking at the news media and if you’re listening to what other elected officials are saying, we need federal assistance at this particular point in time in our history to help close this gap…” Rolison says.
“Can you repeat that Mayor?” Rosser says.
“We need federal assistance to help close this gap,” Rolison and Rosser say.
Rosser then laid out his budget landscape.
“We will be presenting to the Board of Education on May 19 a budget to adopt. We are currently facing a $1.8 million deficit, and that’s down from $3.5 million,” Rosser says. “Over the past several weeks, myself as well as members of the school district have been working to identify ways in which we can close that deficit.”
He noted the June 9 date for voting for school board seats and budgets, via mail-in ballots. Rosser will provide another budget proposal update to the Board of Education May 14. There will be a public hearing May 28. One viewer wanted to know how the pandemic would affect school and property taxes. Rosser again said he was working on the budget.
For his part, Rolison says he is speaking with department heads about possible cuts.
“There are many of us that believe that 2021 may be a more daunting budget than just finding money to fill a gap in 2020,” Rolison says.
Rosser again urged residents to voice a clarion call for federal aid.
“One of our goals is to not have to lay off staff members. That’s been a goal of mine because staff members equate to providing children with valuable experiences,” says Rosser. “However, when a school district doesn’t have the funding to be able to support the staff members, we, unfortunately, have to go towards layoffs.”
And he says with online instruction continuing for the remainder of the school year, learning takes places via Google Classroom and he wants to be sure students have access.
“We have been able to acquire over 1,250 Chromebooks. To date, we have distributed 1,249 Chromebooks. So, from the original order of 1,250 Chromebooks, we have one Chromebook left, Mayor,” Rosser says. “However, we have also ordered 500 additional Chromebooks in which we’re looking to have them delivered any day now.”
He says the public libraries have been helping with Internet connectivity, and the school district has been able to distribute hotspots to connect to Google classroom.
Rosser says graduation plans for high school seniors are in the works. Asked about Pre-K and kindergarten registration, Rosser says they are creating an online registration process and, once social distancing restrictions are relaxed, the rest of the registration process will take place.