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Bronxville School Board Candidate: Parent, Municipal Finance Expert William Rizzo

BRONXVILLE, N.Y. – The Daily Bronxville will run candidate profiles on all four candidates running for two seats on the seven-member Bronxville School Board of Trustees before the May 15 election. Each candidate was asked the same questions. The candidates are scheduled to appear at a debate 3 p.m. Sunday at the Bronxville Public Library.

William “Bill” Rizzo, 43, is in a three-way contest with Jeffrey Rohr and Kurt Fuchs for the school board seat being vacated by current Trustee Richard Rugani, who is stepping down after serving three three-year terms. Incumbent Chris Atayan is also running unopposed for a second term to his post, which expires June 30.

Rizzo is a managing director and head of Portfolio Surveillance, Eastern Division, at municipal-bond insurer National Public Finance Guarantee Corp., where he monitors and manages about $200 billion in municipal bonds issued by 2,500 municipalities. He is a life-long area resident, attended St. Joseph’s School and has lived in his current home in Bronxville since 1999.

Tell us about yourself and your family.

I was born and raised in Bronxville and now live here with my wife, Elisa Shevlin Rizzo, who also grew up here and attended Bronxville schools. We have four children – Lucy, Billy, John and Sara – who are in sixth grade, third grade, first grade and pre-school, in that order.  Sara will join her brothers and sister at the Bronxville schools in September.

I also have two nieces, Meredith, 11th grade, and Hillary in ninth-grade at the high school, and twin nephews, Matt and Alex, in fifth grade. They all have the last name Rizzo.

Why are you running for the Bronxville School Board?

My first reason is the focus on my own children who attend school here and to ensure that they receive an excellent education. That is why we live in Bronxville and pay the taxes that we do. Second, with my background in municipal finance, I have unparalleled insight into the challenges that face the school district in the near, medium and long-term. From my position, I have the benefit of seeing the success stories and the mistakes across the country. Our costs are increasing and our revenues are limited. I want to ensure there are meaningful cuts while allowing for a superb education and use my experience to put the board on a sustainable path. This is the best way I can contribute to my community.

Further, as a lifelong resident I bring a perspective and understanding of over 40 years on issues, whether they be infrastructure and past experiences of projects coming in late and over budget, monies borrowed by the village to complete a former job or previous efforts taken that have paid off great dividends in recent years.

What qualifies you to be a school board member?

I have been deeply involved in the schools as a parent for seven years. I also have 16 years of experience in municipal finance, a role that has given me insight into all the issues that are currently facing Bronxville schools. I want to use my experience to ensure our schools continue to bring a first-class education and do so by making it economically sustainable.  And I bring the perspective of a person who has live in Bronxville all my life and plan to continue living in Bronxville long after my children have left the schools.

What would you like to accomplish if elected?

I want to see the auditorium project move forward and ensure that it is done right, delivered on time and under budget. I want to put us on a sustainable path by managing the property tax cap and provide fiducially appropriate guidance to the board and to school administrators.

If something had to be cut from the budget to meet the state tax cap, what would you cut?

I think the board has done an excellent job of the past few years with many painful and needed cuts. There really is no low-hanging fruit to be cut from the budget. At the end of the day, the board was able to deliver a zero or close to zero budget and compared to neighboring communities, this board was able to hold the line.

I will, however, continue to look at the budget closely, with my long-term perspective and experience with schools around the country. There could be potential savings in insurance costs that could provide some relief. There are fewer tax certiorari judgments as the village has recently revalued a lot of homes and some of that $2 million could be freed up, though I am fully supportive of keeping that money to the side.

What are the three biggest issues facing the schools today?

In the near term, they would be taking care of the infrastructure, particularly the auditorium and the middle school science lab. The flood mitigation project and a new teacher contract in a year are also priorities.

If elected, what would you do to address them?

I would bring my perspective as a life-long resident, and by the time I’m on the board, a parent of children in the elementary, middle and high schools. I would bring my experience as a municipal finance manager and as a tax payer. We have immediately pressing issues of infrastructure and I want to hit the ground running to address them. I also want to build a sustainable budget taking mandates and property caps in consideration.

Bronxville has not had a contested school board race in 10 years and your candidacy was not endorsed by the Committee for the Non-Partisan Nomination and Election of School Trustees. Does that impact your candidacy?

I have a deep desire to serve on the school board and have received tremendous support from people in the community, including Non-Partisan Committee members, to bring this to a contested election.  Very often Bronxville elections are uncontested and I think it is healthy for the process and in educating voters on the issues facing the schools and the community. I am motivated because I really understand the issues the school is facing and I want to address them in a smart way. And there is a history of outside challengers to NPC candidates winning.

Related Experience and Affiliations:

- Cubmaster, Bronxville Cub Scout Pack 5. He has held leadership positions with the group since 2009.

- Member of St. Joseph’s Parish since 1968.

- Member of the National Association of Bond Lawyers, National Federation of Municipal Analysts and the Municipal Analysts Group of New York.

-  Law degree from Fordham University.

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