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You are here: Home Schools School Board Considers Budget Process, Staffing and 2018-19 Calendar at Feb. 12 Meeting

School Board Considers Budget Process, Staffing and 2018-19 Calendar at Feb. 12 Meeting

Public-CommentsThough voters approved a $64.9 million Scarsdale Schools bond, the words of the League of Women Voters, who opposed the bond, are still on the minds of some members of the Board of Education. In a statement made before the vote, the League concluded that "the process for the development of this Bond was flawed and thus undermined the League's confidence in the result." 

At the February 12, 2018 meeting of the Board, Board member Art Rublin, who has decided not to run for a second term said it was a "good thing" that the bond passed, but had reservations about how the Board engaged with the community.

He said, "I think we would be making a mistake if we interpreted last Thursday's vote as a community endorsement of how we went about putting the bond package proposal together, or a community endorsement of how we have been conducting our business with respect to our treasured Scarsdale school district. As an initial matter – I think it is noteworthy that over one-third of voters – almost 700 voters – voted No. That No vote is larger than many of the total Yes votes Scarsdale has seen on budgets. But holding aside the number of No votes: I share many of the concerns that Mr. Morin has raised regarding the process we undertook with respect to the bond proposal – and I believe many other Yes voters do as well. While I reached a different conclusion than the League of Women Voters of Scarsdale with respect to supporting the bond proposal, I believe that the League raised some good points regarding flaws in our bond development process. And I believe that the recommendations that the League made for a new bond process if the bond failed are well worth our taking seriously with respect to all of the work we do."

He continued saying, "I think we can do a much better job reaching out to the community and working to incorporate input. To be sure, we always have two period of public comment at our business meetings; we had a number of public fora regarding the bond proposal; and we invite people to write to us. But I don't think we should rely on formal settings like our Board meetings, when people have to make childcare plans and such to drive here and then have to speak on television for no more than 3 minutes. And I think that too much of our outreach beyond Board meetings – for example, the Greenacres Building Committee and District-wide Facilities Committee convened in the middle of last year -- came too late in the process, when arguably the die was cast. Using the budget we are discussing right now as an example – I think it would be good if we could find ways in the short term to do outreach outside the Board room to solicit community members' views BEFORE we propose a Budget to the community. Another example – just as focus groups were used for the Superintendent search before Dr. Hagerman was brought on, perhaps focus groups should be organized to solicit community members' views regarding the District's search for a new Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction – to supplement the survey sent to parents last week."

Rublin's comments sparked considerable discussion among the Board members and Dr. Hagerman about whether the agreed upon budget planning schedule allowed ample opportunity for public input. During the public comments section of the meeting, Leah Dembitzer, speaking for the League of Women Voters of Scarsdale asked, "Do you have any board meetings schedule between March 19 and April 16? She was inquiring about whether there would be any opportunity for public comment between the last budget study forum on March 19 and the formal adoption of the 2018-19 budget on April 16.

Board members had varying opinions on the need for more outreach. In a long discussion, here are some of the comments that were made, however, you can watch the discussion yourself here

Lee Maude suggested that Board President Natbony send out an email asking for input, and he agreed, saying, "Perhaps this is the time to let the community know that we look forward to hearing from individuals. At these forums we hear the same people speak, and they speak for themselves." Chris Morin said, "We should solicit input. There is not much that is controversial. I will be surprised if there are hot button issues here." Nina Cannon said, "We have our meeting tonight – we don't meet again until March 5. There are ways to get input. The community would like the opportunity to speak before we say this is set in stone." Pam Feuhrer thought that in the weeks between the March 5 meeting and the March 19 forum, groups like the LWVS, Scarsdale Forum and PT Council would have time to formulate their statements and present them on March 19. Commenting on the need for more meetings, Board Vice President Scott Silberfein said, "We have been here for two hours talking about the budget. I think we've already had two hours of discussion."

Dr. Hagerman believed that the budget recommendation already represented the views of the community and was concerned about receiving comments about a budget that was not yet finalized. He said, "For us, the budget discussion starts as soon as we pass the prior one. We talked about food services for the better part of two years. These pieces represent the larger community view. We feel like this represents the best thinking of the community after internal vetting."


The conversation than turned to the 2018-19 budget which has now been modified and is currently estimated to go up 1.98% for Scarsdale residents and 3.53% for those in the Mamaroneck strip.

A question arose about including $220,000 in the budget for two provisional elementary school teachers to maintain class sizes at 22 students for grades K-3 and 24 students for grades 4 and 5. As it stands now, if enrollment rises between the time the budget is finalized and the August 15 deadline and more teachers are needed, the expense would have to be absorbed from other budget lines.

Rublin commented on the fact that there was the potential for five elementary school classes to go above the cap next year and said, "In terms of additions, I think it might be good to have some extra full time employees (FTE's) to maintain class sizes.... I am concerned about a tweak in our policy that permits co-taught classes to go 2 students over. I am concerned about going over 24 in these classes. ... We would need to come up with $220,000.... Mr. Mattey doesn't recommend using the surplus to fund additional positions. I would hate to spend money on Butler Field if we don't have $220,000 to fund teachers."

Commenting on the two contingency FTE's, Chris Morin said, "I have no concerns." Pam Feuhrer said, "Stuart – you will take that money from somewhere else –if it's (the enrollment) is more on August 15. I don't want to put the $220,000 in if we don't have to. But I don't want to adjust the facilities budget to hit a specific budget number.

Lee Maude objected, saying, "I have seen sandbagging – or very conservative budgeting with reserves in some areas. I have seen us have to find the money, and the money is there. I have seen some transfers. There always seems to be enough. I am concerned about over taxation and creating these "phantom positions." Once they were in, they got used. In terms of co-taught classes going above the cap, I am comfortable with that. The children are going at their own pace. There are two teachers in the room. I don't share Art's view."

Bill Natbony said, "Keeping class size is a priority. I understand Art's concern about adding contingent positions, and added, "I share Ms. Maude's view on class size."

In other business, the administration proposed a second version of the 2018-2019 school calendar which you can see here:

It calls for the staff to return to school on Wednesday August 28 and Thursday August 29, with school opening on Tuesday September 4, the day after Labor Day. Since school would not end until Wednesday June 26, 2019, there would be a long winter break, extending from Monday December 24 through Monday January 7, 2019.

Proposed 2018-19 School Calendar



#1 Michael Otten 2018-02-18 04:55
I am happy to see legitimate debate on budget issues, with comments such as, "I am concerned about over taxation and creating these "phantom positions." Once they were in, they got used." The same psychology exists with bond spending. When prior bond spending was under-shooting the budget, 'change requests' ensured expense went up to plan - too often a way to slip in pet projects which were not approved in the original vote. Our increased staffing with flat enrollment will haunt us with long term compensation increases in excess of inflation, and heavy pension obligations. Use the contingency, if needed - that's what it's there for!

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