Efforts continue to organize people and plans to change school boundaries

| 22 Feb 2012 | 04:33

    TUXEDO - A grassroots movement to revitalize efforts to change school district boundaries in order to get children living in northern Tuxedo, but who attend Monroe-Woodbury schools, to go to school in the Tuxedo School District may be gaining some momentum as the result of a meeting held last week. Tuxedo resident Cathy Herbert, who lives in the Laurel Ridge development in the Town of Tuxedo, convened a meeting on Jan. 5 where about 30 Tuxedo homeowners gave their support of her efforts. “I was surprised how much, in the past, had been done on this issue,” Herbert said. “The people there want their kids to go to Tuxedo. They didn’t understand the history of why there was a big commute. They also feel they pay an extreme amount of money for taxes.” Back to the 1960s The group has developed a plan they are hopeful will finally get the attention of the right people and eventually bring district boundaries back to where they originally were in the 1960s. At that time, according to sketchy information Hebert was aware of, the Tuxedo School District wasn’t set up to handle the big influx of families and students who moved into the area and asked Monroe-Woodbury to take those students until a better infrastructure was in place. The understanding, Herbert noted, was that once those resources were in place, the boundaries would revert to what they originally were and Tuxedo kids would then attend Tuxedo schools. In order to get a correct assessment of the accuracy of that understanding, part of the group’s plan is to secure the original paperwork requesting the boundaries be changed, Herbert explained. Assuming this assessment is verified, she believes stating the case that the boundaries were supposed to revert back once Tuxedo could handle those students is the group’s best chance to force the issue to be addressed by both boards, said Herbert. “If that’s the case, we’re going to ask for a logical return to the original boundaries,” she said. However, both the Tuxedo and Monroe-Woodbury boards must approve the request. Tuxedo School District Superintendent Joseph Zanetti has said the idea is not new, having been brought up before by others. He said the Tuxedo board would welcome bringing those students back to Tuxedo. School board representation But Monroe-Woodbury School District Superintendent Edward Mehrhof has said Herbert’s idea is an attempt “to dismember” the Monroe-Woodbury district, adding she’s simply not happy with her tax bill, while noting that no one is happy with their tax bills. Mehrhof said he would not allow a change in district boundaries to happen. In the meantime, members from this new group are now planning to routinely attend Monroe-Woodbury School Board meetings to regularly make their opinions known to the board, according to Herbert. Herbert also said the group is now actively seeking out a northern Tuxedo resident to run a campaign and get elected to the Monroe-Woodbury Board of Education, bringing a Tuxedo voice and perspective to board activities. Others who attended the meeting said they had comparable reasons why they want district boundaries to be changed back. “Taxes are getting out of control,” said Tuxedo resident Monika Sackman, who lives in the Tuxedo Heights condominium complex. “I don’t have kids in school, nor will I ever, and there are many of us like that in this complex. For me, it is the taxes. In this economy, you’ve got to think dollars and cents. This whole situation is not a good situation.” Sackman’s 2010 school tax bill was $3,504, according to the Orange County Department of Real Property Tax Service Agency, for a 1,012-square foot condominium. But she also strongly felt the quality of education given to Tuxedo kids would be better in Tuxedo than in Monroe-Woodbury. “The Monroe-Woodbury district is so big,” she said. “Kids are getting picked up at 6:20 a.m., at 6:30 a.m., and they’re not with kids in their own community. In Tuxedo, because it’s smaller, your child gets more individualized attention. It’s more like a private school.” 'A solid and viable school district’ Tuxedo resident Bill Lemanski saw Herbert’s group as an opportunity to mobilize people to petition the town and county to have the Town of Tuxedo’s property assessments policies reviewed and audited. For a lengthy period of time, Lemanski has been researching what he said are inequitable equalization and assessment rates in Tuxedo, specifically in the town’s northern area where children attend Monroe-Woodbury Schools. In 2010, Lemanski’s school tax bill was $10,251 for a 3,500-square foot home, according to county records. He added he’s gotten delayed cooperation from Tuxedo’s tax assessor, and county officials in Goshen, until intervention from County Legislator Dan Castricone and Tuxedo Town Supervisor Peter Dolan. “We kind of joined together to cooperatively push this thing through and it’s going down two separate paths,” said Lemanski, a former Tuxedo councilman and police commissioner who at one time also wrote for The Photo News. “If we attempt to make the case that it’s taxes (as a reason why boundaries should be changed), we will lose. The state is interested in what’s best for the children, as we are.” That’s why Lemanski advocates the group’s position that it must argue for a return to the original boundaries for reasons other than taxes. Geography and being part of one’s community are among them. “It’s not in the best interests of the children to send them to another community when, in fact, we have a solid and viable school district right in our own community, right down the road,” Lemanski said. “There’s no sense of community (by sending kids to M-W). The kids are on these milk route school buses. Our main interest is what’s in the best interest for the children.” Herbert knows there’s a lot of work to do, with no guarantee of success. “It is daunting,” she said. “But I think it (changing boundaries) is quite valid. We are not asking for something new, we are asking for the boundaries that were supposed to be and where it is logical for them to be.” - Nancy Kriz Survey results To review the results of Cathy Herbert’s survey assessing the opinions of Tuxedo residents whose children attend Monroe-Woodbury schools, visit: http://northtuxedo.blogspot.com/