YONKERS, NY — 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.
Mayor Amicone's YouTube message can be seen here.
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.
SOURCE: City of Yonkers, Office of the Mayor, David Simpson, Director of Communications