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School Budget Would Hike Taxes by 9.84%

by Judy Silberstein

(March 5, 2003) Superintendent Sherry King provided the first public glimpse of the preliminary budget for the Mamaroneck School District at the School Board’s study session on March 4, 2003. The Board will be going over the budget in detail over the next few weeks (see schedule below), but Dr. King provided a brief overview of the “bottom line.”

The proposed budget is for $81,739,000, which is an increase of 8.12% over last year and will result in a 9.84% increase in property taxes.

budgetThe administration is proposing some additions and some cuts over last year’s budget. The additions include: hiring some new staff to handle increased enrollments, to provide high school level Earth Science for all middle school students, and to reduce costly out-of-district placements for some children with specialized needs. In addition there will be some expansion of the CO-OP summer camp program, and after-school programming for students needing extra help at Chatsworth and Central schools.

To offset some of the increase, the Superintendent is recommending raising the maximum class size for Kindergarten from 22 to 25, but not for the full-day program. Dr. King noted that the lower number has been in effect for only a few years. Also, under the system in place at three of the elementary schools, classes are already small on most afternoons when only half the class remains at school.

Other cuts are proposed in the per pupil allocation for each school, in field trips, staff development and arts programs, and in the elimination of funding for a professional coordinator of the Understanding Handicaps Program. Additional savings are expected with the retirement of 14 staff members

Commented Board President Bob Martin, “It’s been a very difficult budget to put together,” He commended Assistant Superintendent Sarah Tate for her work in preparing the budget and called her a “wizard” for containing the damages in this difficult year.

Earlier in the week, Tate explained some of the unsettling aspects of this year’s budget process that stem from the lack of firm numbers coming from New York State. “We probably won’t know the exact figures until after the budget vote in May,” she predicted. “That’s been the case for the past number of years.”

However the degree of uncertainty is greater than ever this year. For a presentation with PTA presidents on Monday, preliminary budget books were unavailable because last minute updates from the State required the district staff to make corrections to several pages.

Tate noted, “The amount of state aid the district will be receiving is not very clear. We don’t have any numbers on building aid. The Governor has proposed some dramatic ideas.”

In the face of uncertainty, the preliminary budget is based on very conservative estimates of what the district might receive in State aid. Said Tate, “I put in a number that is the lowest we’ve ever received. The budget estimates the district will receive $4.4 million, which is a conservative, low estimate, but we may have to change this.”

There is additional uncertainty about a major expense item: pensions. The district has been paying 1 or 2% of salary towards the state retirement system. Last year, the district was told they would have to up their contribution to 4% of salary, but in the end there was no increase.

This year, the district was told their contribution was going up to 7%. In the past few weeks, they’ve received a new letter from State Comptroller Alan Hevesi predicting the number will be 11 or 12%. “Whether or not it will happen, who knows? We were in the middle of printing the preliminary budget when we got word of a possible 11 or 12 % requirement.”

The district contributes to two pension funds – one for state employees and one for teachers. For the teachers’ fund, the contribution is set to go up seven fold. It’s at .36% of salary now, and it will go up to closer to 3%. Because the district is not required to make payments until 2004, this number may change again.

The district released the following announcement: "The Mamaroneck Board of Education will be discussing next year’s budget at the following meetings. The community is invited to all meetings. They are held in the Post Road Conference Center of Mamaroneck High School."

Tuesday
March 4
7:30pm

Superintendent presents budget.

Tuesday
March 11
8:00pm

Regular board meeting; Public input welcome.

Saturday
March 15
9am-noon

 

Budget study session; Public input welcome.

9 – 10am Financial Section, Program Highlights. Public comments

10 – 11am Special Education, Health Benefits. Public comments

11 – noon Capital Component, Debt Service, Forward-Backward Look. Public comments

Tuesday
March 18
7:30pm

Budget study session; Public input welcome.


Tuesday
April 1
7:30pm

Budget study session.

Tuesday
April 8
8:00pm

Regular board meeting; Board votes on budget.

Tuesday
May 20

Budget vote.





 

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