STONY POINT, N.Y. -- About 100 people attended a meeting Thursday of the North Rockland PTA Council, seeking help from the state for the financially strapped district that has endured significant staff and programming cuts due to a property tax settlement with Mirant Corp.
PTA parent Maureen Muskopf, the committee's legislative chair, said it was "a great turnout for a first public meeting."
Speakers included Haverstraw Town Supervisor Howard Phillips, Assemblymen James Skoufis and Kenneth Zebrowski, and North Rockland Schools Superintendent Ileana Eckert and Board of Education member Debbie Gatti.
Gatti addressed the assembly, giving a history of the issue, while Muskopf talked about what individuals in the community can do to help.
Zebrowski said the school district was forced to take out the largest bond in state history to pay the court-ordered settlement.
Skoufis noted that he and Zebrowski are working hard to convince the governor that North Rockland is a school district in crisis and that his intervention is desperately needed, said Muskopf.
"Many, many" people went home with petitions. To date, the group has over 3,000 signatures on the paper petition and over 1,000 on the online petition.
"We also had about 25 people fill out our volunteer sign-up sheets to continue helping us in our cause," she said.
Volunteers will be raising awareness and collecting additional petition signatures at upcoming events.
The committee's goal is to hit 10,000 signatures. That would be "a huge amount," Muskopf noted.
The committee of 10-12 members initiated the petition that collected more than 1,500 signatures in the spring. Muskopf said then the district as well as the community has suffered financially due to the Mirant power plant reassessment and closure.
"Property taxes have almost doubled since 2008, and our district has made significant cuts to both staff and program," she said. "The Mirant bond will be with our community through 2036 and accounts for $11.5 million dollars in the school budget."
The Mirant court-ordered settlement will cost the North Rockland Central School District $345 million in principal and interest. The council is urging elected officials to push for legislation to fund this certiorari debt.
Thursday's meeting was designed to give the community an update on the NR Debt Relief effort and plans going forward.
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