Added Busing vs. Lower Tax Hike: Choice of East Ramapo Voters


School board elections next week have suddenly taken on greater urgency for the yeshivah community in parts of Rockland County.

The vote next Tuesday comes a week after New York state’s education chief allowed the East Ramapo School Board to restore 14 days of busing for private schools on days when there is no public school. In exchange, the board was permitted to override the state’s mandated cap limiting tax increases by 1 percent.

The $232.6 million school budget for the district home to the Torah communities of Monsey, Spring Valley and New Square would add approximately $190 a year to the average property tax bill. If the district stayed within the 1.46 percent tax cap, however, the increase would be $120. A representative of the yeshivos said that the $70 difference is far less than the amount of money parents would have to pay to carpool on those days.

In addition, due to breaking the tax cap, district residents who have STAR exemptions would not be eligible for rebate checks this year.

Exceeding the tax cap, instituted by Gov. Andrew Cuomo six years ago, requires a 60 percent majority to pass.

Also on the ballot are three lawmakers on the nine-member school board. Elections take place every year for three different members, meaning that each trustee faces the voters every three years.

Harry Grossman, the current vice president of the board, is up for his first reelection battle. A 19-year resident of the district, he faces Eric Goodwin, who says that the board has ignored the public school sector.

Board member Moshe Hopstein is not seeking a fourth term, leading to an election fight to succeed him between Mark Berkowitz and Alexandra Manigo. Berkowitz has served as a special education teacher for the past 46 years, 40 of them in East Ramapo. Manigo has children in the public school.

Running for the seat left vacant following the resignation of Joe Chajmovicz are Joel Freilech, a member of Monsey’s chassidishe community, and Chevon Dos Reis.

A group of about 50 yeshivah administrators issued a letter to the public asking members of the Orthodox community to vote for Grossman, Berkowitz and Freilech.

“We the undersigned appeal to all registered voters to go out Tuesday, May 16th, and VOTE for the candidates who have the endorsement of ‘Daas Torah’ and ‘Vaad Hayeshivas,’ the letter declared. “Remember, EVERY single vote counts. We must elect board members who will work to support the educational needs of ALL children.”

Polls are open from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m.