Ramapo Residents Head to the Polls for School Budget Vote

A school budget narrowly rejected by East Ramapo voters last month will be put before them for a do-over vote on Tuesday.

Residents of Monsey, Spring Valley and New Square get the chance to vote on the proposed $237 million school budget, which raises taxes by 2.7 percent on higher-income earners and adds four additional days of free busing for private schools.

The budget goes primarily for the district’s tiny public school population, which likely is the reason most voters who pay private school tuition rejected the 2.7 percent tax increase. The district is sweetening the deal for them by providing free busing for four out of the 11 days when yeshivos have class but not public school.

A fierce debate has broken out in recent days among some in the Orthodox community whether to support the budget or not. Some have argued that it amounts to double taxation since they are already paying tuition in yeshivos. Others argue that calm has recently returned to the district after years of strife and to reject the budget would throw a delicate relationship into turmoil.

School board president Yehuda Weissmandl told Hamodia on Sunday that a study of last month’s voting pattern shows that it could pass this time if the community understood the details.

“Budget votes are always a challenge,” Mr. Weissmandl said. “With taxes so high already, you have to find the balance between not spending extra money and providing a great education for all the children in the district. This board has been very effective in finding a balance over the last few years.”

State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, who approved the original budget, warned that if the budget failed, the district will revert back to the current transportation schedule of zero days of free busing.

Some residents have no problem with that. Three people spoke to Hamodia against the budget but all asked that their names not be published

“As a show of goodwill, taxpayers in East Ramapo already pay a much larger share of the school budget than the average of other districts in the state,” one of them said. “We went along with it for the past few years but Albany must give us as much money as they give other districts. It’s not fair to come back again and again to local taxpayers. It’s ridiculous.”

Mr. Weissmandl disagrees, saying that “the alternative is much worse.”

“It would mean cutting programs that we just recently put back,” he said. “That is just wrong on so many levels. I am a taxpayer and I am voting yes because I believe in a quality public school education. Everyone benefits from it.”