Harlem School District Leaders React to Failed Referendum Vote

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A day after voters again reject a Harlem School District referendum, Superintendent Pat DeLuca says he is looking forward despite the fact that the district's finances are going backwards.

"With the failed referendum you can almost bet on the fact that if we are going to reduce our deficit the next four years, there will be additional reductions," DeLuca said.

DeLuca will spend the next few months gathering recommendations from the teachers, board members and the public on what budget steps to take next. However, the superintendent wouldn't guarantee that deeper cuts, including sports and arts programs, would be left untouched.

"I wouldn't want to have to cut any of the core educational programs, but at this time I don't know definitely if we are going to be able to avoid that," DeLuca said.

Referendum supporters could only look on in disappointment on Tuesday after the latest vote. It comes after 7,800 district students sat out for two weeks during an August teacher's strike, a messy drama that parents argue disintegrated a lot of support.

"I think the kids are going to pay the price, some people tend to put their emotions before their make an educated decision," Harlem parent Patti Thies said.

Other Harlem parents say the referendum's proposed tax hike forced some residents to choose between the district's debts and their own debts.

Despite the latest vote, DeLuca believes the district's core educational mission can still be carried out.

“I am confident, despite our money problems, just with the effort of our employees, that we will maintain the quality of education that we have," DeLuca said.

Deluca says the board should have a final grasp on what budget cuts to make by March 2005.

It's unknown exactly when another Harlem referendum could again be on the ballot.