Yonkers mayor issues YouTube plea to school unions

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Yonkers Mayor Phil Amicone posted a YouTube video appeal to the city’s school unions asking them for millions in concessions before the city commits $20 million in emergency funds to the Yonkers Public schools.

The five-minute video lays out the Yonkers Public Schools’ $42 million deficit reduction plan, which includes more than 700 lay-offs and the elimination of school sports and pre-kindergarten.

Amicone said he’s  willing to help, but not without compromises from the unions.

“If the City Council and I are going to ask Yonkers taxpayers to rescue the schools, it is only fair that the school unions help too,” said Amicone, adding that if school employees give up contractual raises and step increases this year, the needed savings will be achieved. “We are not asking you to give up any money out of pocket.”

The Journal News received a press release about Amicone’s appeal just an hour or two yesterday after the Yonkers Federation of Teachers announced that it has tentatively agreed to $3.3 million in contractual changes to teachers’ daily work schedule.

Teachers union president Pat Puleo said yesterday that the $20 million in concessions that schools Superintendent Bernard Pierorazio seeks are “undoable.”

Amicone offered few details about the proposed $20 million in emergency funding for the schools, other than suggesting it would be a one-time infusion by the city’s taxpayers.

Here’s his press release:Mayor Issues YouTube Appeal to School Unions: ‘Help Us Save Jobs’

Yonkers, N.Y. (May 2, 2011) Yonkers Mayor Phil Amicone has issued a direct appeal to the unions representing the city’s public school employees via a YouTube message posted to the internet on Monday. The mayor’s message is simple: help save jobs and education programs by meeting the city halfway in its solution to the budget crisis that has gripped the school district.

The Board of Education last month approved a budget that would layoff more than 700 full- and part-time workers from among the district’s three major unions (YFT, CSEA and the School Administrators), more than 420 of them would be teachers. The draconian budget plan also calls for the elimination of education programs including the district’s lauded prekindergarten program.

That budget plan will go into effect unless the city, the school district, and the district’s unions are able to come up with another $42 million to plug a budget deficit caused by huge cuts in state and federal aid.

In April, the mayor announced he was pursuing a solution that would close that gap and save nearly all the 700 planned layoffs and most education programs. His solution involves a one-time infusion of as much as $20 million in emergency education funding from the city, which would be accessed by a form of borrowing that requires state and City Council approval.

The mayor has said he will only pursue this emergency education funding if the school district’s unions are willing to provide substantial cost savings in their labor contracts.

“We didn’t put the school district in this mess. But the city is willing to help solve the crisis if the unions are willing to meet us halfway. If the City Council and I are going to ask Yonkers taxpayers to help rescue the schools, it is only fair that the school unions help too,” the mayor said in the message.

The mayor said he was not asking the union memberships to give up any money out-of-pocket. Rather, he called for non-salary related concessions, specifically for the teachers union to forego automatic pay increases due to go into effect later this year and to forego the district’s payment to the teachers union welfare. Those two measures alone would account for more than $13 million in savings and save hundreds of jobs, the mayor said.

Amicone continued, saying “Forgoing [teachers’] automatic pay raises together with some other non-salary contractual items would save millions of dollars, and go a long way toward solving this problem. I understand this would be a sacrifice. But we are asking you to make this sacrifice in order to save hundreds of your fellow workers’, and very likely even your own job.”

Mayor Amicone said he was open to other ideas, but the savings from all three unions had to be “significant.”  The city’s budget, which includes the budget for the school district, is due to be adopted by the City Council by June 1.

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4 Comments

  1. Tax paying home owner on

    Everybody living or working in Yonkers must give a little to mend the Budget Gap and save hundreds of teaching jobs and save the quality education we painstakingly achieved in recent years and are now cannibalizing. Everybody must give something, not just the school staff and the families with children, but also: the Mayor’s staff, the City Hall employees, the DPW and Teamsters, the YPD, the YFD. For 7 years the Mayor has promised to curtail overtime expenses at the YPD and YFD (30 million in 2009 !!) but the reduction has been insignificant. For years the Mayor has said he would support consolidation of services but hardly anything has been done. For years the Mayor has said he cares about education, yet he’s given YPS the same 218 mm in the past three years… despite annual tax increases, despite inflation, and despite a huge influx of additional students from parochial schools. Yes, the YFT and the Principal’s union can stand to give back; their average salary is high compared to NYC. But the Mayor and our City Council MUST request concessions and humility from the other players in the municipal ‘game’ as well. There is too much at stake for 26,000 students (roughly 50,000 voting parents).

  2. Nomenclature on

    Instead of of Tax Paying Homeowner, you sure you don’t mean Teacher Who Wants More of Your Money?

  3. Doesn’t that casino generate millions in revenue every year ? Luckily I do not live in Yonkers, but how about cutting aid to those people I see who are using food stamps, then playing $20 on lotto numbers every day.

    The answer to everything in this country is tax the working man. Do you know who is never affected by a recesion,welfare recipients. Don’t get me wrong, many need welfare, however I had a freind who worked for welfare fraud investigations, people would deny who they were when he visited their homes, and lived beyond their means.. He was very fair, but would draw the line on blatant abuse by recipients. The reports were kicked back to him by his supervisors and he was advised against generating such eports. Socialism is alive and well and existing in America.I bet gas prices drop when Obama’s re-election bid continues.. Ooops, we have a budget crisis, lets raise those property taxes, we don’t want the electricity turned off to the welfare check printing machine.