The school budget is still a work in progress. That was the message at the April 6 meeting of the Mamaroneck School Board, where Superintendent Dr. Paul Fried briefly described additional cuts and additions. His revised recommended budget of $122 million represents a 1.22% increase over last year’s budget and would result in a 2.08% tax increase.
A prior version of the budget presented on March 20 would have resulted in a 2.81% tax increase.
The budget can be adjusted between now and April 20, when the school board must adopt a final proposal for community vote on May 18.
|Take the poll:
If the vote were today, how would you vote on Mamaroneck’s school budget? As of April 7, the budget is $122M, up 1.22% from last year; the tax increase is 2.08%.
Since March 20, Dr. Fried has cut another $492,500 from the budget, much of it by looking to last year’s actual expenditures to help estimate those for next year in categories like teacher aides and tutors. In addition, $5K was cut from the Mamaroneck High School Leadership line item.
The newest rendition of the budget restores $50K of the $65K previously cut for elementary field trips. Also reinstated is the elementary Constitution Works program ($11K) and half of the funding for Lincoln Center ($20K of $40K). In addition, the new proposal includes $115K for an additional English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher, to be shared by the elementary and middle schools.
These additional expenditures are offset by new revenue projections that include an additional $485,695 in state aid beyond the district’s initial estimates.
Will the Teachers’ Union Impact the Budget?
Still unknown is whether there might be concessions from the teachers that could impact the budget. Dr. Fried acknowledged that the Mamaroneck Teachers’ Union recently made an offer but he said the board had not yet had the opportunity to consider it. Both he and MTA president Ann Borsellino declined to comment further.
Additional Support for Central School?
With three grades at Central School approaching maximum enrollment, Alexandra Leach and other Central parents asked the board to consider how the district will support classes that may have up to five additional students who are mainstreamed in from self-contained special education classes for special classes in music, art, library and gym.
Currently, mainstreamed students are not counted in determining class size. Because most of the district’s self-contained classes are at Central School, regardless of the students’ “home” district, some parents feel that Central students are disproportionately impacted when their class size reaches the maximum, because additional students can still be added.
The board asked Dr. Fried to explore possible ways to address the large class size that results when students are mainstreamed. He noted that it would be expensive to add another teacher at each impacted grade level to address what is essentially a problem for the 45 minutes each day that the expanded classes participate in specials. A more feasible option might be to explore adding part time specialists and splitting the class into two groups for art, for example.
Anat Nambier, Central’s board member liaison, noted that the issues that need to be addressed are quality of learning, space in the classrooms, and materials (such as keyboards for music instruction, for example).
These matters will be considered at a meeting of Central School administrators, teachers and parents to be help on Tuesday, April 13 at 8:00 am in the Central faculty lounge.
What Else Might be Added?
Another issue that the board asked Dr. Fried to explore is whether to add funds to support the assistant superintendent for business operations, to aid in budget preparation and/or long-term strategic planning.
In addition, board member Harriet Barish asked whether additional teachers, or anything else, should be added back into the budget in light of the newest reductions and lower resulting tax rate.
The board also heard from Karen Fletcher, the district art curriculum specialist for grades K through 8, who opposed the proposed cut of a 0.5 art teacher at the elementary level. This would be accomplished by reducing art for kindergartners and first graders from 45 minutes to 30 minutes. In addition to sending the wrong message about the importance of artistic thinking and creativity, Ms. Fletcher said, 30-minute art periods simply are not long enough from a practical standpoint.
“Art may be an easy target,” she concluded, “but it’s not the right one.”
Next Steps on Budget & Princeton Plan Study
These issues will be addressed at an additional meeting or meetings before the April 20 board meeting for the adoption of a budget. Check the district website for information on further hearings.
Although the budget discussion was brief on April 6, the meeting went almost to midnight, largely because of the numerous community members who addressed the board in support of MHS English teacher Jennifer Rosenzweig, who has not been recommended for tenure.
The board also authorized a study into the costs of transportation that would be incurred if the district were to implement a Princeton Plan model at the elementary level. This would entail pairing schools (Mamaroneck Avenue with Murray; Central with Chatsworth),with lower grades at two schools and upper grades at the others. The plan has the potential to reduce some expenses and to decrease demographic differences between the schools due to neighborhood characteristics.
In addition, the board heard a presentation about the district’s budget reserves from Assistant Superintendent Meryl Rubinstein. The PowerPoint is available on the district website on the Budget Communications page.