In an unforeseen vote that has several groups in town livid, the West New York Board of Education voted down five separate shared services agreements with the town valued at nearly $1.5 million.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
The West New York BOE voted down five separate shared service agreements, with a cumulative value of $1,482,668, with the town during last night’s regularly scheduled meeting.
The single vote on the measures was a tie: 3-3-2, with Board President Adam Parkinson, Trustee David Morel and Trustee Denise Mejia voting yes, while Trustees Lorena Portillo, Matthew Cheng and Ron Scheurle voted no.
Additionally, Vice President Damarys Gonzalez and Trustee Jonathan Castaneda abstained on the vote due to conflicts of interest – both elected officials work in Town Hall. Furthermore, Trustee Steven Rodas was absent.
The most expensive shared services agreement impacted by the vote that would’ve seen the BOE pay the town $607,584 to use recreational areas, such as Donnelly Park and Miller Stadium.
Public Affairs Commissioner Cosmo Cirillo told Hudson County View that he remains hopeful that cooler heads will prevail, with a special meeting of the board of education already scheduled for Monday.
“The town and the board of ed have always had a good working relationship and my hope is that we continue that relationship moving forward,” said Cirillo, who oversees the rec department.
“We both provide a valuable service to children in town, specifically through the rec department, so that service can continue to be provided.”
The recreation department’s annual summer day camp, set to start on July 10th, currently has 1,000 kids registered – as well as 150 employees ready to work – and would be significantly hindered if they were unable to use the school facilities, Cirillo added.
Another shared service agreement voted down was for police security details in schools, with an estimated cost of $515,568.
In a statement, Policemen’s Benevolent Association President Thomas Mannion slammed the board for putting the safety of students and staff in jeopardy.
“It comes with great shock and disappointment to learn that certain members of the elected WNY School Board have voted to discontinue the Shared Services Agreement with the Town of WNY, essentially, REMOVING POLICE OFFICERS FROM THE SCHOOLS!,” he said.
“Given the recent number of security incidents at schools across the country, these members feel that the presence of Police Officers in our schools protecting THE CHILDREN AND SCHOOL STAFF is no longer important.”
Mannion further stated that the PBA cut their rates by more than 50 percent in hopes of ensuring the agreement would pass, also stating that the Mayor and Board of commissioners “strongly disapprove” of taking police out of the schools.
The other three shared service agreements were for refuse removal, valued at $195,416, fuel reimbursement for school vehicles such as buses, which would’ve meant making a $100,000 payment to the town, and rec maintenance and preparation – which had an estimated cost of $64,1000.
Monday’s special meeting, set for 6 p.m. at the middle school, located at 201 57th Street, will have the board vote on all of the shared services agreements separately this time.
Parkinson, like Cirillo, hoped this situation could be rectified by Monday evening.
“I am hopeful that this board will reconsider this decision for the best interest of the kids of West New York. School safety and providing quality services for the providing quality services for the people of our town, especially our students, should not be jeopardized,” he said.
“I would strongly encourage the members of the school board to vote in favor of these agreements come Monday,” he said, clarifying that he was speaking on his own behalf and not the board or school district as a whole.
Superintendent of Schools Clara Brito Herrera could not immediately be reached for comment.
A copy of each shared service agreement can be read below.