In contrast to the last half dozen budget sessions over the past three months, attendance was sparse on April 20 as the Mamaroneck School Board formally adopted the 2010-2011 budget and took other important steps in preparing for the future, including appointing a new superintendent.
Budget Adopted with No Changes in Numbers
The budget adopted is $122 million, up 1.22% from last year. The tax increase will be 2.08%.
These numbers have not changed since the April 6 budget meeting, although what’s included has changed slightly. The adopted budget includes $50,000 set aside for the board to hire an assistant business manager should it determine next year that such an addition would make sense.
Currently, Assistant Superintendent for Business Operations Meryl Rubinstein is responsible for all aspects of finance and compliance, including payroll, accounts payable and receivable, purchasing, investments, transportation, construction and school lunch, as well as preparing and administering a $120 million budget. Ms. Rubinstein explained later that the $50,000 for the assistant was put together by shaving costs in several line items, including overtime in the business office.
Dr. Fried reminded the board and the community that adoption of the budget had followed “lots and lots of opportunity for community input,” with “different decisions” made along the way after hearing from the community about “what they could live with.” Economic challenges have required reductions of 79 positions over the past two years, with the district moving from 897 positions in 2008-2009 to a projected 818 positions for 2010-2011. Eighty percent of the staffing cuts have been non-instructional.
In preparing the budget, Dr. Fried said, he and his team constantly re-evaluated their assumptions. As a result, some projected revenues went up and some expense projections went down. “It wasn’t done by magic and wasn’t anything that was being withheld,” he explained.
The only public commentary on the budget came from community member Jonathan Sacks, who has been an outspoken and sometimes critical participant at the numerous budget meetings.
“I really endorse this budget,” he said, praising the board, Dr. Fried and his team for cutting costs while maintaining the level of quality education. He also enthusiastically endorsed school board member Nancy Pierson, who is up for reelection.
One of Three New Administrators Hired
The board formally appointed Dr. Robert Shaps, currently superintendent of the Hastings-on-Hudson schools, as the next superintendent of the Mamaroneck schools, effective July 1. “It’s an understatement,” said Dr. Shaps in his brief remarks, “to say that I’m thrilled by the opportunity.”
Dr. Fried, who will be retiring from the New York system and becoming the superintendent in Montville, New Jersey, reported that searches are underway to fill two other administrative positions. A large number of resumes have already been received for the Chatsworth assistant principal position, said Dr. Fried, and a process is being set up to replace Mamaroneck High School Principal Mark Orfinger, who announced his retirement two weeks ago.
Time to Move Past Union Concession Offer
Dr. Fried briefly addressed the school board’s rejection of concessions offered by the teachers’ union. They were “pleased” that the Mamaroneck Teachers’ Association (MTA) had come forward, he said. But the district felt that with less than one year to go before negotiations would begin on the teachers’ contract, accepting the concessions, which would have required extending the current contract another two years, was not in the district’s best interests.
Acknowledging that some people were upset by the resolution of the issue, Dr. Fried noted, “we need to move forward and work with the MTA.” It’s time, he said, to “move into the next phase of the budget” – the budget vote — and contract negotiations.
Criteria for Restoring Athletic Teams
The approved budget cuts some athletic teams, but the district will accept private funds to restore some of the cuts, as long as the board approves the donations, as required by law. To help the board decide whether to accept donations, Dr. Fried and Athletic Director Bari Suman presented the board with some guidelines.
District teams currently are balanced by gender, with forty girls’ teams and forty boys’ teams. Dr. Fried suggested the board should seek to maintain that balance by using donated funds to restore teams in pairs, if possible.
|Girls Modified Field Hockey||Boys Freshman Football|
|Girls Modified Volleyball||Boys JV Soccer|
|Girls Modified Basketball||Boys Freshman Basketball|
|Girls Modified Softball||Boys Freshman Baseball|
Dr. Fried did not think that the district’s obligations under the federal Title IX statutes would be impacted by restoring more teams for one gender than the other, but Ms. Suman and Assistant Superintendent Meryl Rubinstein will confirm with the district ‘s attorneys.
Dr. Fried noted that to reinstate a team, donated funds would need to cover all costs, including coaching salaries, uniforms, equipment, transportation and officials’ fees. Potential donors can contact Ms. Suman for information about the costs involved for a particular team.
In addition, the funds would need to be received in time for the district to schedule games. For fall sports, scheduling will need to be done very soon.
If a team is reestablished, noted Dr. Fried, the district would assume “complete jurisdiction” over the team,. “It’s not a parent-run sport even if parents donate the dollars,” said Dr. Fried.
Moreover, to avoid any appearance of undue influence, Dr. Fried recommended that the names of individual donors not be shared with coaches and advisors.
These criteria will be posted on the district website, together with other procedures being developed by Ms. Rubinstein with the PTAs to facilitate parent donations.
Further Steps Towards the Future
At the conclusion of his budget presentation, Dr. Fried articulated several ways in which the district was preparing for the future. Although placed at the bottom of his list, renegotiating contracts with the five bargaining units — all of which expire at the end of next year — has been the topic that has generated the most community buzz.
Work with a new forecasting model will allow greater ability to project budget data into the future, Dr Fried said. A budget advisory committee and the potential assistant business manager will help the district to maximize resources, as will the transportation study that was recently approved.
That study will look for efficiencies in the transportation department under the current configuration of the district’s six schools, explained Dr. Fried, but it will also research transportation costs of a Princeton Plan, which would pair elementary schools so that the lower grades of both schools would attend one campus and the upper grades would attend the other.
A Princeton Plan is not being considered for the following year, noted Dr. Fried. Before the board would consider such a change, Dr. Fried clarified, there would need to be a “far wider look” at how instruction would be impacted and what cost savings might be achieved, as well as lots of community input.