Diego Aviles of Thiells spoke up during the public input session at the April 2 North Rockland school board meeting.
He gave three suggestions to the board to make education more affordable in the community whose residents have been hammered by the school tax hikes in recent years as a result of Mirant Corp’s successful tax challenges.
Aviles said the district should seek help from local experts who know how to run a business with the budget of hundreds of million dollars. (North Rockland’s proposed 2013-14 budget is $206 million.)
He also wanted the district to communicate with other districts to share resources to save money, and to consider using this year’s surplus to ease tax burdens for the 2013-14. By lowering taxes, more businesses would be willing to come to northern Rockland, he said.
Aviles’ comment was ended with his question spurred by the recent Journal News article on two school board members who so far missed 10 meetings out of 23 in this school year.
These members, Elliot Gillies and James Kraus, were not present at the April 2 meeting.
“As a resident of the community, I have a concern over that,” Aviles said of their absence. “Does the board think there’s a problem? I think so.”
Deborah Gatti, president of the board, said the North Rockland school board has the tradition of not forcing out those board members who frequently miss meetings.
“I’m not going to criticize my colleagues,” Gatti said. “They are personally accountable for their attendance. If you have issues, you have to speak with them.”
Gatti emphasized that the board always has a quorum and has been functioning with no issues.
Harry LeFevre, another board member, said both Kraus and Gillies were present at the March 19 workshop meeting.
Both Gillies and Kraus have said that even though they missed some meetings, they’ve been on top of all the issues by going through meeting materials online, adding that by email and phone calls, they stay in touch with fellow board members and school administrators.