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Briarcliff School Board Change Concerns Residents

BRIARCLIFF MANOR, N.Y. – Newcomers Dina Brantman and Michael Haberman are all but guaranteed to be the new members of the Briarcliff Manor School District Board of Education, but some area residents say they’re concerned with the changing of the guard.

Brantman and Haberman shared their thoughts during a meet the candidates session Tuesday night at Briarcliff Middle School. The two are set to fill the vacancies left open after Board President Guy Rotondo and Trustee Eric Bashford opted to not run for re-election this year . Residents will have a chance to vote for the school board candidates on May 15 – the same day residents will vote on the district’s proposed $47.65 million budget.

Brantman and Haberman agreed that they would seek to be open to the public during meetings and introduce ideas like adding more public comment sections to provide more of a dialogue. Both candidates also agreed that they would like to see an independent analysis in regard to budget cuts made over the last few years. The two noted losses to the middle school music programs, concerns with lack of investments and that a majority of the $10.5 million bond proposal focuses on repairs.

“I think there are things that raise some real alarm bells,” Haberman said. “We’re going to have to make tough decisions on declining enrollment and we’re going to have to take a look at what the teacher contract looks like. I would take an approach with the consensus of what this community values.”

Brantman agreed.

“Regarding an objective analysis of the cuts that have been made over the last few years, we haven’t had that,” Brantman said. “And I know a lot of people in the community, and I was one of them, that have asked for that analysis.”

Briarcliff resident Victor Sternberg, who previously served on the district’s budgeting committee, said he’s concerned that the loss of Rotondo could mean a shift in a balance on the board.

“We have an underlying growth of expenditures greater than the tax cap and if we don’t address the issues of the cost of our education staff, we will have to exceed the cap or lay off teachers,” Sternberg said. “It is not a question of if, it’s a question of when.”

He added that he was “very concerned” that neither Brantman nor Haberman would promise to not raise taxes.

Haberman said he would have to weigh each decision individually and place an emphasis on school programs and students.

“I’m a taxpayer in this community and if I could provide our children with the education we want to provide them and keep taxes flat or bring them down every year, I would love to do that,” he said. “But I don’t know what the future holds so to say I would never put it up on a ballot or say I definitely would, I can’t answer that.”

Brantman said she would also have to weigh programs and proposed cuts against taxes to determine the best decision for the district.

“I don’t want to override the tax cap and I don’t want my taxes to go up either. But it really depends on the situation that is presented to us,” Brantman said.

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