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Irvington School Board Candidates Debate Budgets, Tax Cap

Candidates for the Irvington Board of Education gathered for a forum on Tuesday at Irvington High School.
Candidates for the Irvington Board of Education gathered for a forum on Tuesday at Irvington High School. Photo Credit: Meredith Shamburger

IRVINGTON, N.Y. – The issue of how the Irvington school district can provide a quality education while following state requirements was the center of much of the discussion during a candidates' forum in Irvington on Tuesday.

Candidate John Montgomery lead the charge for a more long-term plan for the school district.

“We need more than a year-to-year budget,” he said. “We need a long-term plan for the budget.”

Four candidates are vying for two open seats on the Irvington Board of Education: incumbent Robert Grados, John Montgomery, Seth Oster and David Graeber. Candidates gathered at Irvington High School on Tuesday night to answer questions from residents about this year's budget, the property tax cap, buildings and ground maintenance and more.

The Irvington PTSA plans to post a video of the forum on its website soon.

Each candidate told the packed room that they would be voting for this year's budget, but they differed in opinion about whether the district should have gone over the tax cap.

“The tax cap is choking districts,” School Board President Robert Grados said, adding the override was needed to help the district maintain academic excellence instead of cutting programs. Oster agreed and said the district needed to lobby Albany on the issue of unfunded mandates, which he said negatively affect local school districts the most.

Graeber said he was in favor of finding ways to maximize taxpayers' dollars within the budget.

Montgomery said he disagreed with the board's decision to go over the tax cap, but said he planned to vote for the budget because a “nay” result would be too much of a disruption. Montgomery said he also disagreed with some that the district should have increased the budget before the tax cap went into place, saying the district should raise taxes only when it needs the money.

Candidates ended the forum discussing their opinions on the role of the Board of Education within the school district.

Graeber said he felt it should be a “partnership”: the board should set policy, which the administration executes. Montgomery agreed that the board should set policy, and he cautioned against officials micromanaging the district. Oster and Grados said the board was responsible for overseeing the district and setting policy, but officials have to let school administrators and teachers do their jobs.

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