Tarrytown Union Free School District officials have released a 26-page preliminary spending plan for 2012-13 that cuts five full- or part-time positions in some areas and adds eight elsewhere.
Their purpose: keep the property tax increase under the state-mandated cap but still deal with staffing for higher enrollment and required special-education and academic intervention services.
The $66.66 million spending plan basically exhausts the savings opportunities that are available short of major staff reductions, according to the superintendent's summary of his budget proposal. The Board of Education will examine the plan before choosing a final budget proposal to present to voters May 15.
The proposal is 2.95 percent higher than the current budget and would carry a 2.83 percent increase in the total tax levy.
Highlights from the proposal's introductory summary:
“Our school district serves 25% more students with few total staff members than existed a decade ago.”
“Staff reductions were not needed to balance the budget. However, it was not possible to meet needs for increased staffing due to enrollment growth and state mandated service requirements without exceeding the tax cap. Therefore, staff reductions have been proposed in certain areas so that the savings can be used to support needs-based staff increases with no net budget impact.”
The proposed needs-based staff increases are as follows:
• .5 K ESL teacher (mandated)
• 1.0 Elementary math specialist (AIS mandate)
• 1.0 Gr. 2 teacher (class size guideline)
• 1.0 MS special ed. teacher (mandated)
• 1.0 MS math teacher (AIS mandate)
• .2 HS ESL/special ed. teacher (mandated)
• .5 math HS math teacher (AIS mandate)
• .4 HS Regents Soc. St. teacher (AIS mandate)
Estimated Cost: $ 570,000
And the “offsetting staff eliminations/reductions” are as follows:
• Gr. 1 TAs reduced from 1 per classroom to .5 per classroom
• Elementary Librarian position eliminated (TAs supervise libraries)
• .5 PreK social worker position eliminated (retirement)
• 1 foreign language position eliminated (at-risk students assigned to extra math instruction in place of foreign language class)
• .5 HS multimedia (consolidation of digital media positions)
• .5 HS clerical position
Estimated savings: $ 570,000
As do all administrators and teachers' salaries which rise annually at a contractual rate, the superintendent's salary will go from $284,207 to $289,891, a proposed increase of $5,684.
School Superintendent Dr. Howard Smith added that what the pay raise rates don't reflect is the fact that the administration is “absorbing” an increase in the cost of health insurance (expected to rise 8.5%) which would usually be agreed to be partially covered by staff.
Custodial salaries go down $50,766, which accounts for the retirement of two head custodians last year who were replaced by one (with the savings divvied up between two school years).
The biggest cuts proposed are the elimination of the elementary staff librarian and reduction in the size of the Teaching Assistant staff for the first grade, cuts which Smith anticipates, and has heard, some outcry against. “We know there's some concern about those two things, and we should absolutely have an elementary school library but we don't have to,” he said.
Smith said there was a real need for extra help for math students in particular, which they were able to “reinvest in in exchange for something else... You can't really add staff and still stay under the cap," he said. "We can live without an elementary librarian for now, but we really need math help.”
Tonight is the public's chance to weigh in on the proposed budget, which Smith said can make a difference. “We factor it all into the process and see whether it translates into a need to make changes,” he said. “From now on, it really is based on feedback from the public.”
And on another school-related matter, we asked Smith if all those unused snow days in this mildest of winters would mean more vacation days for the students. What might come as bad news for the kids, is probably good for the parents. “Much to the potential dismay of students, we will take advantage of the opportunity to continue to teach them,” he said.
There is a discussion of the budget and propositions tonight, Thursday at 8 p.m. in the Board Room.
This is followed by a full calendar of upcoming steps leading to the May 15 vote: March 29, First of four Budget Notices to appear in newspaper; Sat, March 31, at 8:30 a.m. in the Board Room, Board of Education Workshop – Appropriation Decisions, Revenues; April 17, Budget distributed to public; April 24, Public presentation of the budget and Board adoption of the budget; April 25, “Property Tax Report Card” available and submitted to S.E.D.; May 3, Budget hearing; May 4, Budget notice mailed; May 15, Budget Vote & Election of Board of Members.
Board of Education Meetings are conducted in the District Administration Building, 200 North Broadway, Sleepy Hollow