Parents Livid, But City Manager Strome Insists His Hands Are Tied

NEW ROCHELLE (CBSNewYork) — Students in a suburban community could soon cross the streets at their own risk, thanks once again to the budget knife hitting the bone.

After cutting police and fire services, New Rochelle is now going after school crossing guards, prompting new concerns about kids’ safety, reports CBS 2’s Lou Young.

Crossing guards in New Rochelle have been told they might lose their $20,000-a-year jobs soon.

That’s shock enough, but what about the kids?

“These cars don’t stop. They don’t do 20 miles an hour; maybe 30 or 40. So I’m very afraid for little ones,” crossing guard Valerie Vanderberg said.

Wrestling with another brutal budget crunch, City Manager Charles Strome has proposed firing all 18 crossing guards and to begin looking for volunteers or school employees to pick up the slack.

It’s the same budget that suggests laying off another half a dozen city firefighters.

He said he’s out of options.

“It’s a simple math problem. They put a restriction on us and at the same time say you have to pay us ‘X’ but you can only raise ‘Y.’ The numbers don’t work,” Strome said.

This has been spoken of before. A city like New Rochelle cuts $2 million-$3 million from its services but that savings is swallowed by the rising cost of employee health care benefits, and public employee pensions that the state insists the city must pay — even as it slaps a cap on property taxes. That’s the vice. But in this case, children could be the victims.

“Totally ridiculous. They are putting children’s lives at risk,” parent Holly Neglia said.

The same budget eliminates one of the three fire department ladder trucks now on duty in New Rochelle — a city that is building high-rises. It’s that bad, but the crossing guard cuts have really hit a nerve.

“A foolish cut isn’t the word for it. Let them cut something else,” parent Edward Gajda said.

Just like their counterparts in every corner of the state, the mayor and city council here will have to decide if there is something else to be cut.

New Rochelle would save $350,000 by eliminating the crossing guards. The city manager said it would save tens of millions if the state would pick up some of the employee health and pension costs.

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