Friday, May 13, 2011

4 East Ramapo seats up for grabs, $200.5M schools budget to be decided 

Residents in the East Ramapo school district will see several new faces on their Board of Education and could see an 8.9 percent tax increase after voters take to the polls during Tuesday's school board elections.

Voters will decide on four seats currently up for grabs on the nine-member school board and will either approve or reject a proposed $200,520,617 schools budget for the 2011-2012 academic year.

The school board contests pit public school advocates against candidates associated with the Hasidic and Ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities who currently comprise the school board majority. The public school advocates claim the board majority has acted in the best interests of the yeshivas attended by many of the district's Jewish children; members of the majority insist their decisions benefit all students.

The seats are those held by school board Vice President Aron Wieder, trustee Moshe Hopstein and trustee JoAnne Thompson. The seat once held by former board President Nathan Rothschild will also be on the ballot. Rothschild resigned from his position with the school district amid allegations that he engaged in mail fraud while working as a fire commissioner in Monsey.
First seat

Running for Rothschild's seat are Antonio Luciano, 54, of Chestnut Ridge, and Yehuda Weissmandl, 35, of Spring Valley.

Luciano, a Chestnut Ridge resident since 1991, is a retired New York City police lieutenant with a son at Spring Valley High School. He said that his position with the NYPD required him to control costs while maintaining a budget, work he believes has prepared him for a spot on the school board.
Luciano, who garnered more than 7,600 votes in an unsuccessful bid for the board last year, has been highly critical of many decisions made by the Board of Education and said an investigation into district spending is necessary.

"I feel one of the first things that needs to be done is a forensic audit of the district's federal and general funds to understand how funds have been spent," Luciano said. "If irregularities are found, we need to know how they will be corrected."


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