School Budget of $112 Million Would Raise Taxes by 6.63%
by Joan R. Simon
(March 7, 2007) In a welcome change of pace, Mamaroneck Superintendent Paul Fried presented a school budget that proposes a tax rate increase smaller than any seen in the past four years. For the first time in a long time, as well, the tax rate increase is smaller than the budget to budget increase.
The proposed budget totals $112,156,735 a rise of 7.97% over last year, but the tax rate increase is only 6.63%. Usually tax certioraris, where property owners successfully petition to have assessments reduced, push the tax rate higher than the budget increase. But while the district anticipates no drop in tax certiorari payments, they do expect additional revenue due to this year’s rise in the overall assessed valuation of properties in Larchmont and Mamaroneck.
Superintendent's Proposed Budgets from 2003 through 2007
New Administrative Positions/Additional Teachers
Included in the budget increases are six new administrative positions: Assistant Superintendent for Support Services, Director of Cultural Arts (K-12); and Directors (6 – 12) of Guidance, English, Social Studies, Math and Science (see: Administrative Plan Draws Parent Support, Teacher Opposition ). The administrative component of the budget remains at 9%, although the actual cost has risen from around $9.5 million to $11.1 million.
Across the district there will be an increase of 8.2 teaching positions, including an additional full time psychologist to be shared at the Hommocks and Mamaroneck High School and a district wide ESL teacher. The high school will have the most increases, with 3.7 positions. Other than an additional science teacher, the other teaching posts represent fractional increases.
School Board member Linnett Tse pointed out that the incoming freshman class would be larger than the previous one, and Dr. Fried agreed it would be “a good idea to double check the class size numbers” before finalizing the recommended additions to the high school teaching staff and elsewhere. An allocation for three contingent teacher positions is also included in the budget to allow for unanticipated needs throughout the district.
Part of the high school increase will be for APPLE (A Place People Learn Excellence), the small structured learning program, that will get an additional .4 English and .4 social studies teaching positions. These will enable the APPLE freshman class to double in size, from 16 to 32. Next year 16 freshmen will begin the APPLE program in September and an additional 16 students will be identified during the first marking period.
Added Safety and Security
Safety and security have been a School Board focus this year and recommendations from a district wide committee included in the budget are: 4 greeters for the elementary schools; 2 additional greeters at the high school (one for an entrance at McLain Auditorium for the district offices and the other outside the assistant principals’ offices) and a .2 position at the Hommocks where aides already do most of the work (see: School Board Considers More Security – and Costs).
In addition, a School Resource Officer at the high school will be paid for jointly by the school district and the Village of Mamaroneck Police Department. Parent Douglas Cliggott expressed concern about the atmosphere in the school if a policeman is in the building all day.
Dr. Fried responded, “I don’t see the officer patrolling the school.” He said he expected him to be a “role model” for the students, someone “the kids can trust.” He would not be trying to “catch kids doing the wrong thing.” However, Dr. Fried did point out that “there are areas outside the building that need supervision.” School Board member Janet Buchbinder explained that the officer “would have special training for this job, more in the social work area.”
Free Graphing Calculators
Free graphing calculators, described as a new “unfunded state mandate,” sparked a lot of questions. Annie Zimmer, assistant superintendent for instruction, noted that “there’s a lot of buzz around this right now," indicating some confusion about the new regulations. "There's very little guidance from the state," added Dr. Christine Grucci, assistant superintendent for business operations. Gerri Brause, MHS math department chair, explained that all high school math students would be eligible to receive free graphing calculators from the district.
While some students have their own device already, the district is budgeting $90,000 to cover everyone: if a student were to lose his own calculator, he would be eligible for a school-purchased one. It was unclear, however, what would happen if a student lost a school calculator, or whether the district is responsible for providing them to residents who attend private and parochial schools.
Student Information & Management System
The district will also be purchasing a new student information and management system, "eschooldata", according to Dr. Grucci. The secure system will allow the school instant access to student information, including grades, attendance, schedules, and standardized test scores. It will also enable the district to produce state and federal ('No Child Left Behind") reports more efficiently than the previous system, which is so old it is no longer supported by the company that made it, according to Michael Kolmer, who is in charge of program evaluation and research. The price tag is a hefty $220K, but some of this cost involves first year start-up and licensing fees which will not be repeated.
Another budget increase will come from an improved compensation plan for long term substitutes. Murray PTA President Jennifer Conley suggested also raising the daily rate for short term substitutes (currently $85 per day), which she said was lower than the rate in comparable districts and she felt was impacting the district’s ability to attract qualified candidates. Ms. Absher also inquired about additional “permanent subs” in the elementary schools. Dr. Fried said he would look into both matters.
At the outset of the meeting, Dr. Fried said he expected the board “to put things into the budget and take things out” before the process was finalized: “I’m confident that the budget we are going to look at tonight will not be the budget we adopt.”