Mamaroneck Schools Superintendent Paul Fried unveiled his recommended budget on Tuesday, March 16, describing the 1.47% spending increase as “the lowest budget-to-budget increase in the history of the school district.”
The 2010-2011 budget of $122,695,077 is $1,769,317 more than last year and would result in a 2.81% tax increase. Eighty percent of the budget is for salaries and benefits.
|2009-2010 Budget without STAR||2010-2011 Budget without STAR|
|Budget % Change||3.23%||1.47%|
|Tax Rate % Change||4.77%||2.81%|
For a typical property assessed at $20,000, Dr. Fried’s recommended budget would cost a taxpayer $14,722 (before STAR rebate) . This represents a tax increase of $414.94 per year, or $34.58 per month.
Superintendent’s Budget Comes After Rounds of Reductions
The recommended budget – which Dr. Fried described as the “first official phase” of budget preparation season — followed three extensive budget reduction workshops in the past six weeks.
During those sessions, a variety of cost-saving initiatives were considered. While many went into the recommended budget, others were rejected, including a half-day kindergarten program at three elementary schools, elimination of a high school reading teacher and a special education teacher, and elimination of all funding for the Hommocks musical and the Mamaroneck High School senior musical (funding was later restored by half).
No new cuts were introduced since the last budget session.
However, the tax rate is now smaller than projected before because the district has been able to get better estimates of revenue and expenses. (Revenues will be explained more fully at the March 20 line-by-line review of the budget.)
The recommended budget actually restores two positions that had been slated to be cut: a high school English teacher, and the part-time financial aid advisor at the high school, who assists about 40% of seniors in determining how to pay for college. Still, the remaining cuts impact virtually every area of the budget.
Cuts Across the Board
Dr. Fried’s budget includes reductions of 56.3 staff positions. Of those 13.8 are teacher positions: 3.5 at the elementary schools; 5.4 at the Hommocks Middle School and 4.9 at the high school. The cuts will have the following impacts:
- At the Hommocks, a modified team structure (employing larger “Super Teams”) for grades 6 and 8 will be implemented.
- Students in kindergarten and grade 1 will have reduced art instruction (from 45 to 30 minutes).
Elementary class size has been protected, however, and raised only slightly at Hommocks (1-2 students for each academic class) and at MHS.
Other significant cuts include:
- Reduction of 2/3 of the budget for professional development.
- Elimination of elementary field trips, including Constitution Works, and the Lincoln Center Program.
- Elimination of practice tests for students in grades 3-5 and the ERB test for grade 5. (Students will still be prepared for standardized state tests, however.)
- Elimination of the community liaison at Mamaroneck Avenue School.
- Cuts to athletic staff and athletic teams.
- Reduced funding for musicals, PACE shows, and Shakespeare.
- Elimination of 11 extracurricular clubs at Hommocks and MHS.
- Elimination of funding for the PEP band.
- Reduced funding for Teachers’ Institute and the Community Counseling Center.
Teachers Spared, But No Cuts to Administrators
Dr. Fried emphasized that his budget saved staff positions – particularly teachers — whenever possible. “We have decreased everything else so that we can keep people, he explained.
But Dr. Fried defended his decision to not cut administrators, noting the importance of “putting quality teachers in front of students.” Administrators and instructional coaches are important for quality in teaching, he explained.
“We’ve seen a great deal of growth and focus in terms of what quality looks like in a classroom,” he said.
Dr. Fried reminded the community that the district had already eliminated an assistant superintendent position last year. Further, last year’s proposal to cut the assistant principal position at Central School was met with “a great deal” of public outcry.
As for having two elementary buildings share a principal, Dr. Fried said he determined this would not be feasible because of concern that the “APs,” as they are called, are really needed at arrival time, during lunch, and at dismissal.
In the Hommocks and MHS, which house 1100 and 1500 students, respectively, Dr. Fried said cutting administrators would raise safety concerns.
Compared to the rest of the county, Dr. Fried asserted, “we are lean administratively.”
Athletic Option Not a Budgetary Option
In response to community requests, Dr. Fried examined whether the high school could cut a physical education teacher by having more students use the so-called athletic option, which gives athletes class credit for engaging in team sports.
Because there would always be at least one quarter of the year when all students would need to be in physical education classes, Dr. Fried said, increased use of the athletic option was “not a viable option” for budget reduction.
Teachers Union Still Silent
Many community members, including Jonathan Sacks, wondered what, if anything, the unions would do now that the recommended budget has been presented. Concessions on the part of the teachers could allow for further cost savings or the restoration of positions.
In “restating the obvious,” said Mr. Sacks, “salaries and benefits are bankrupting us.” He encouraged the teachers and other collective bargaining units to “come to the table.”
The Mamaroneck Teachers Association (MTA) is considering next steps. “Now that we have the Superintendent’s Proposed Budget,” said MTA President Ann Borsellino after the meeting, “we will continue to have conversations with our membership, central administration, and the board of education.”
What Would a Contingency Budget Look Like?
A contingency budget, which would be imposed if the community did not approve a budget, would require an additional $1,878,273 in cuts over those already recommended by Dr. Fried. Although pending legislation in Albany may change the contingency cap, under current rules, a contingency budget for 2010-2011 would call for spending even below this year’s level ($120,586,121 for possible contingency next year versus $120,695,077 for this year).
Under state law, the district still would still be obligated to honor union contracts and make payments to the state pension funds, unemployment insurance and other mandated programs. Although the school board would have some discretion over what to cut, Dr. Fried warned there could be a further reduction of 19 staff members. Potentially, class size at the elementary level would increase and teams at the Hommocks could be disbanded.
Getting from the Superintendent’s Recommendations to the Board’s Proposed Budget
Dr. Fried’s presentation, though detailed, was an overview of his proposal. Dr. Fried and Assistant Superintendent Meryl Rubinstein will lead the board and community through a line-by-line review of the recommended budget, beginning at 9:00, Saturday, March 20, in the Tiered Classroom at Mamaroneck High School.
Dr. Fried’s March 16 PowerPoint presentation and other budget materials are available on the district website.
Another budget session is planned for Tuesday, April 6 at 7:30 pm in the MHS Library Classroom.
Changes to the budget can be made up until April 20, when the school board must adopt its proposed budget. That proposal is what will be presented to the community for vote on May 18.