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Schools Will Bear Brunt Of Yonkers Budget Woes

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Classroom (credit: CBS 2)

Classroom (credit: CBS 2)

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YONKERS, N.Y. (CBS 2) — Major layoffs are looming in New York’s fourth largest city. Yonkers is facing yet another budget crisis, with schools enduring much of the pain.

Four-year-old Amir is already preparing for life in a global economy, but the clock is ticking on the pre-kindergarten program that’s helping him thrive.

“It’s devastating for all of us, including our parents,” Florence Taylor, principal of P.S. 27, said. “They’re calling [and asking] what’s going to happen to the program.”

“Obviously, we’re feeling much pain in the city of Yonkers,” schools superintendent Bernard Pierorazio said.

The superintendent said the pain is sharp, and the cuts will run deep. To close an $87 million deficit, Pierorazio proposed the elimination of universal pre-K, cutting the kindergarten day in half, and laying off 141 teachers.

“I’m not too crazy about that idea,” parent Julia Fournier said. “I’m going to have a child that’s going to be in kindergarten next year.”

Approximately 1,800 families would lose bus service, and 232 bus monitor jobs would be eliminated. Interscholastic sports and other after-school programs would also be chopped.

“I wish there was something else that we could do, because we need to keep them out of the streets,” parent Liliana Santizo said.

To avoid major layoffs and program cuts, Mayor Phil Amicone wants education unions to give back $20 million in wages and benefits.

“There is no other way for us to fund this,” Mayor Amicone said.

The teachers union has done the math.

“$7,500 per person in terms of a loss of income,” Gene Zilempe, of the Yonkers Federation of Teachers, said.

The union said it was at least willing to talk, but the budget must be finalized by June 1, leaving just six weeks to figure it all out.

Yonkers blamed the budget mess on Governor Andrew Cuomo and the legislature for huge cuts in state aid.

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