Hearing held on replacement E. Ramapo school budget

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EAST RAMAPO -

East Ramapo school officials hosted a public meeting on a $231 million school budget Tuesday, a month after residents overwhelmingly voted down the previous proposal.

The original budget included a 2.5 percent tax increase -- the new one just 1.48 percent.

The revised plan aims to maintain full-day kindergarten and increase summer, arts, English as a second language and special education programs.

Teri Mersel, who says she voted against the initial budget, reversed course on the second plan.

The state has appointed monitors to oversee the district, which is embroiled in controversy. Hasidic and Orthodox Jewish board members, who dominate the school board, have been accused of discriminating against minority students.

One controversial measure removed from the revised budget was restoring busing for private school students on days when public schools are closed.

Aron Saperstein, who opposes the new budget, supported the original bus plan.

"The busing is reimbursed pretty much 80 to 90 percent from Albany, which makes this a revenue-neutral olive branch that could have been extended to the private school," he says.

Superintendent Deborah Wortham says she hopes voters do what's best for students.

A special election will be held on June 20. If the budget fails again, the district will have to adopt a contingency budget that could cause a decrease in staff, programs and extracurricular activities.

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