Friday, December 30, 2016

KJ School Board approves boundary change 

The Kiryas Joel Board of Education has passed a resolution to alter the boundaries of the Kiryas Joel School District in order to remain coterminous with the borders of the Village of Kiryas Joel. 

This follows a request from the Village of Kiryas Joel to permit the residents of the 164-acre annexation to become part of the Kiryas Joel School District.

This property is now within the Monroe-Woodbury School District.

"The Kiryas Joel School District did extensive research to determine the fiscal and educational impacts of the boundary alteration," Kiryas Joel School Superintendent Joel Petlin said in a press release issued this week. "Our School Board believes that this will be in the best educational interest of the children and would support community relationships."

Under Section 1507 of the Education Law, school district boundaries can be altered with the consent of the two school districts.

Tax collection deadline
The impact of the alteration was analyzed by an advisory committee created by the Kiryas Joel School Board. The committee members represented all parties to this issue, including John McCarey, director of Orange County Office of Real Property Tax Services; Gerald McQuade, Monroe Town Councilman; Abraham Wieder, Kiryas Joel mayor; Gedalye Szegedin, Kiryas Joel administrator; Jon Huberth, Monroe-Woodbury School Board president; Patrick Cahill and Eric Hassler, Monroe-Woodbury assistant superintendents; Harry Polatsek, Kiryas Joel School Board president and Shaye Wercberger, Kiryas Joel School District treasurer.

Officials from the two school districts met on Nov. 15 where KJ school officials provided M-W's Boundary Line Alteration Committee information on special education, transportation, affected parcels and loss of property tax revenue.

The issue is now being reviewed by the Monroe-Woodbury School Board to determine if the district wishes to consent to a boundary alteration before the March 1, 2017, deadline set by Orange County, in order to be established for tax collection for the 2017-18 fiscal year.

What is not immediately known is what impact two lawsuits appealing the annexation of land by Preserve Hudson Valley and a coalition of municipalities will have.

"I was pleased to work with an excellent group of professionals on this issue and I am grateful to my colleagues at the Monroe-Woodbury School District who contributed to our work, continuing a tradition of cooperation that began in 1989," Petlin said.

The spector of East Ramapo
The decision by the Kiryas Joel School Board affirms what Kiryas Joel officials have said since the annexation issues first arose three years ago this month. 

Annexation is necessary, village officials say, because Kiryas Joel's population - now estimated at more than 25,000 people - could double within a decade. 

Should the school boundaries remain the same, residents in the 164 acres would remain in the Monroe-Woodbury School District, paying taxes, using various educational services and voting on school budgets and candidates for school board. 

The fear has been that with a population explosion in the area, the Hasidic community could have more say in school district matters, similar to what has happened in the East Ramapo School District in Rockland County. A state monitor now oversees that district after so many of its programs were cut, making it difficult for students to graduate.

Meanwhile, Monroe Town Supervisor Harley E. Doles III urged the Monroe-Woodbury School Board to act.

"The Monroe-Woodbury School Board has an obligation to say yes or no to the redrawing of the boundaries and not wait for the politics to reach the conclusion they seek," Doles said. "This is the only step that both school boards can take to avoid a school district far worse, far more destructive than East Ramapo."

'We're not there yet'
Meanwhile, Monroe-Woodbury School Superintendent Elsie Rodriguez said she expects the firm hired to weigh the pros and cons of ceding 164 acres to the Kiryas Joel School District to report its finding next month.

The Kiryas Joel School District announced this week that it would alter the boundaries of the district in order to remain coterminous with the borders of the Village of Kiryas Joel. 

"What the Kiryas Joel School officials have done is what they have always said they would do," Rodriguez said in an interview. "We're not there just yet."

In October 2015, the Monroe-Woodbury School Board engaged Questar III BOCES, State Aid and Financial Planning to assess the short- and long-term financial impacts of the annexation of land to the Village of Kiryas Joel. 

Questar will be using data from the school district to weigh the impact of the loss of tax revenues versus the elimination of services that are now delivered to the children living there.

The district's business office has been working with Questar to model state aid changes for M-W, which will be affected by the addition of students from the land proposed for annexation. The model will incorporate two scenarios, one that considers 164 acres and one that considers 507 acres.

What happens if ...
The superintendent said there are 70 Hasidic children and 16 non-Hasidic children living in the 164-acre annexation area now within the Monroe-Woodbury school boundaries. 

But both districts have discussed what should happen to the non-Hasidic students should the borders change and have informally agreed they could attend Monroe-Woodbury as tuitioned students.

Rodriguez said she expects Questar to deliver its findings by mid to late January to the school board.

Any border change also would need the approval of the district superintendent and state education commissioner.

"East Ramapo is an example of what can go wrong," Rodriguez said. "This is not a decision just for today, but 20 years from now. In the end, we will do what we have to do to keep Monroe-Woodbury Monroe-Woodbury."

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