Senate Backer of Ramapo Bill Backtracks on Monitor Power

ALBANY -

The main Senate sponsor of a bill that would impose a veto-empowered monitor on an Orthodox-led school board in Rockland County partially backtracked on Sunday night, introducing legislation that removed the main issue opposed by many in the Orthodox community.

Sen. David Carlucci’s bill calling for state oversight of the East Ramapo school board comes days after the Assembly voted by an unusually narrow margin to require the state education commissioner to appoint an independent monitor for a five-year term.

The Democrat-controlled chamber defied warnings by leaders in the Orthodox community that the passage of this bill could increase anti-Semitism in the district, and passed it by an 80 to 56 margin.

That would allow the monitor to veto any spending decision by the school board, whose Orthodox majority reflects the constituencies of Monsey, Spring Valley and New Square.

Carlucci, a member of the breakaway Independent Democratic Conference who caucuses with the ruling Republican majority, proposed legislation that would ask for state oversight for a period of two years. The Comptroller’s office, the bill specifies, would oversee the board “in consultation with the governor.”

Under the terms of the legislation, the observer would be a “non-voting” member of the school board. The board would also be required to submit its education budget to Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli for approval.

“The Comptroller,” the bill says, “shall examine the proposed budget to ensure that the fiscal and operational needs of the school district are being met.”

If the Comptroller endorses the budget, the district would get an additional $5 million in state funds to restore programs that were cut in previous years. Their current budget is $218 million.

In an interview last year with Hamodia, DiNapoli said that his office has done some audits on the East Ramapo board over the years “that have found some room for improvement.”

“I don’t think they were on our stress list, though,” he added.

The watered-down bill signals that the Senate, under Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-Suffolk County), is not comfortable with allowing a state appointee to veto decisions taken by a democratically elected board.