A First Look at the 2017-18 Scarsdale School Budget: What's In and What's Out
- Around Town
- Published on Wednesday, 15 February 2017 14:40
- Joanne Wallenstein
What's in store for taxpayers next year? At the Scarsdale School Board meeting on Monday night February 13, Assistant Superintendent Stuart Mattey gave the community a first look at the 2016-17 school budget. The estimate shows a total school budget of $154,300,765, which is a budget-to-budget increase of 2.56% over 2016-17 and will mean a 1.46% increase in the tax levy. The projected tax levy limit for this year is 1.55%, so the increase would fall below the tax cap.
See the presentation here:
There will be $3.8 million budget to budget increase that includes a $2.8 million transfer from this year's reserves to pay for a shortfall in the 2014 bond project which is underway now.
Included in this projected budget are some additional staff members requested by the administration.
Among the additions will be 2.5 early reading teachers so that each of the five elementary schools has a full time reading specialist to help some of the youngest students who are struggling to learn to read. A half time Learning Resources teacher is needed as well.
At the middle school, the district is proposing .to add a .2 to .4 Mandarin teacher for a new program that will be offered before school if there is sufficient demand from incoming sixth graders. Each section would have 24 students. If students drop-out during the year and enrollment falls below 18 students the program would be disbanded mid-year. Lynn Shain estimates that the cost for this new program will be $22,000-$44,000, depending if one or two sections are needed.
At the high school, the administration will add a full time STEAM coordinator.
Director of Special Education and Student Services Eric Rauschenbach said a second school nurse was needed at the high school to care for the school population of 1,521 students. The second nurse would be available after school, and also do scoliosis, vision and hearing screenings, keep forms updated, issue gold cards and help fulfill a wide variety of state mandates. The New York State Nursing Association recommends one nurse per 750 students and the high school has double that number.
Other staff additions include two more cleaning people at the high school to help with the expanded facilities.
The administration is also proposing to convert the five Teachers in Charge at the elementary schools to Assistant Principals, which will cost the district $75,000 this year.
If enrollment projections are correct, two additional elementary school teachers will be needed at Fox Meadow, as well as a special education co-teacher at the kindergarten level.
According to Drew Patrick, Assistant Superintendent for Personnel, the total additional cost of these staffing increases will be $1,051,000. This would bring the total district staffing (without part-time civil service employees) to 619.21 employees – which is the highest level of staffing in the past nine years.
This projected budget does not include a $65,000 allocation for the Teen Center that is traditionally included.
Formed in 1999, funding for the Teen Center has been in question practically since its inception. It was formed by a letter of agreement between the School and Village Boards to fund it jointly with annual allocations from their budgets. As usage of the facility as waxed and waned over the ensuing 17 years, both Boards have had questions about its usage, vitality and importance to families and students.
The Board invited the leadership of the Teen Center in to discuss the funding.
Teen Center Director Ellen Tiven Moore, and Teen Center Board Members Dan Hochvert and BK Munguia spoke at the meeting and called the center a safe, drug and alcohol-free place for kids to drop in or attend scheduled programs. BK Munguia argued that the classroom is not the only place that children learn skills and that the center captures "the needs and concerns of the community." She said the Teen Center has been on "life support" these past few years and used up their reserves.
Dan Hochvert said, "It the board does not support the Teen Center, the Teen Center will close. These funds cannot be made up by anything we can do."
Lee Maude called the process of deciding on annual funding "dysfunctional" and said that representatives from the school and village boards had met last year to review the Teen Center's finances and find a way to change the business model to be self-sustaining. However the Teen Center Board pushed back on the idea that programming fees alone could fund the center. A successful "Escape the Room" program had helped the bottom line this year, but it's not clear that income-generating programs alone could fund the center that pays rent and pays one and a half employees. School Board member Pam Fuehrer questioned whether the Teen Center was being used primarily as a venue for activities such as moving up ceremonies and young men in leadership meetings that formerly occurred in school facilities. She suggested that taxpayers were already paying for facilities that could be used for this purpose.
Bob Harrison said that many contributed the $250,000 that was used to launch the Teen Center and warned the Board, "you're going to have some bond issues – you'll want our support – don't turn your back on these issues."
Transportation to Religious Instructional Programs:
Stuart Mattey announced that the district had discovered it was transporting children to religious instruction programs after school, which is not in compliance with state law. This started when Quaker Ridge Elementary School was under construction and has been continued since that time. The district will notify the parents of 15 students who attend Westchester Reform and seven students who are transported to St. Pious that after school bus service will no longer be available.