The Examiner

Chappaqua Schools to Join Town in Unfunded Mandate Fight

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New Castle’s Mandate Relief Committee chairwoman asked the Chappaqua Board of Education for help last week to present unified arguments to lawmakers in hopes of alleviating the crushing expenses imposed by government.

Chappaqua resident Judy McGrath, who was appointed to lead the committee by the town board over the summer, told school officials at the Sept. 17 board of education meeting that state, federal and county mandates imposed on the district and the town limit both entities’ resources. She said that the Triborough Amendment, which continues the terms of an expired contract if there isn’t a new agreement, along with pension costs are two of the costliest mandates.

But smaller mandates, such as reporting requirements that force schools and municipalities to send out mailings instead of online posts, are also problematic.

If school and town officials work together, they can make a stronger argument to legislators for certain mandates to be eliminated, McGrath contended.

“I believe that in those mandate issues that are similar for the town and the school, we could present a united front to the main parties…and we could have strength in numbers,” she said.

McGrath noted that school districts have an advantage when it comes to advocacy because of organizations such as the New York State School Boards Association and the Westchester-Putnam School Boards Association. Towns can benefit from school districts’ efforts because the New York Conference of Mayors and Municipal Officials, which New Castle belongs to, is not as influential, she said.

Trustee Victoria Tripp said the only way for schools to get lawmakers’ attention is for multiple districts to work together on a specific issue. But board members questioned whether uniting with the town would be enough.

McGrath explained that the goal is for the town and school to identify the mandates they want paid for and then encourage nearby municipalities to do the same. She said in Mount Pleasant, Supervisor Joan Maybury has been a vocal mandate relief proponent and would likely join the effort.

“Every community has their own pet peeves and issues and unless we all unite as municipal entities…they’re never going to do anything,” said Trustee Alyson Gardner.

Trustees indicated they would work to coordinate with the district’s various groups, including the PTA, which issues should be focused on. Superintendent Dr. Lyn McKay said she would then arrange a meeting with McGrath in order to share the information, discuss common interests and give her a list of mandates the district views as priority.

That information would be brought to the New Castle Town Board, where McGrath would make recommendations about what mandates the town should target.

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