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CukJohn Cuk conducted his last choral concert on Tuesday April 17This week, Craig Sherman District-wide Coordinator of Music and Performing Arts learned that for the tenth consecutive year, Scarsdale was one of 583 communities named to the list of Best Communities for Music Education by the NAMM Foundation. According the NAAM website, “The award program recognizes outstanding efforts by teachers, administrators, parents, students and community leaders who have made music education part of a well-rounded education. Designations are made to districts and schools that demonstrate an exceptionally high commitment and access to music education.” See the list of top districts here:

Commenting on the honor, Craig Sherman said, “We did it! With everyone's support I was able to secure this recognition for the tenth consecutive year. This is quite an honor for all of us, and I am grateful to you for your efforts that allowed this to occur. It does take all of us, and we are the village that makes this happen. It is clear this is a widely held consensus.”

Also this week, Director of Choirs John Cuk conducted his last choral concert at Scarsdale High School. He has announced that he will retire at the end of the year. According to one attendee, “It was a beautiful concert. Lots of tears. It was his last concert after 17 years at Scarsdale High School and he gave the seniors a little gift and they gave him a signed music stand and sang a few songs in his honor.”

LastConcert

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corkfillA special meeting of the Scarsdale Board of Education to discuss the future of the synthetic turf and surrounding track at SHS drew a passionate crowd on Tuesday April 10. The first synthetic field was installed 13 years ago is beyond its useful life and badly in need of replacement. The existing field was installed after a community wide fundraising campaign to finance Scarsdale’s first synthetic field which allowed for more playing time and an extended outdoor season. At the time, the crumb rubber surface was state of the art, but in the intervening years concerns have been raised about the safety, health risks and sustainability of recycled rubber turfs.

Now 13 years later, the school district needs to replace the surface and some community members raised the health risks of crumb rubber surfaces including off gassing, exposure to toxins and excessive heat. In the proposed 2018-19 school budget, the board had allocated $1.2 million to replace the turf, but after residents comments, the administration asked their architects to provide pricing for crumb rubber and alternative surfaces, including organic infill and natural turf – also known as grass.

With the Board’s budget vote only a week away, and a commitment to the community to replace the turf in the fall, the Board scheduled an extra meeting to decide how much more needed to be allocated for the field in next year’s budget. Though the field is technically Village –owned property, it is up to the school to maintain it.

Athletic Director Ray Pappalardi presented a usage report showing how many hours per week the synthetic turf is used for physical education, interscholastic activities and community programs. He ran through an analysis of the loss of playing if the synthetic field were replaced with natural grass that is not suitable for play when it is wet or muddy. If the district decided to reinstall the grass, Pappalardi estimated a loss or “displaced use” of 39 hours per week. As it is already challenging to find any field to schedule in Scarsdale, many of the people in the audience found this tradeoff unacceptable.

Pappalardi outlined the factors to be used in making the turf decision which were:

  • Usage
  • Health and Safety
  • Cost
  • Sustainability
  • Community Relations

Next the Board invited a landscape architect from BBS to outline options for replacement of the turf field. He explained that the turf is actually a large carpet with plastic blades of grass. These plastic grass fibers are held in place by a layer of silica sand topped with infill made from crumb rubber, EPDM, TPE, or something organic like coconut husks, cork or olive pits. He gave a lengthy presentation about the benefits and drawbacks of each of these infill options, discussing their performance, safety profile, maintenance needs, aesthetics and costs.

Scarsdale’s turf is currently made of black crumb rubber which is Scarsdale’s least expensive synthetic option. However, this FieldTurfsurface has come into question as it is made from recycled car tires, emits gasses, causes abrasions and is hot. A second alternative, coated crumb rubber, comes in colors that make it cooler than the black turf but still pose the risks of recycled rubber.

A few of the other alternative presented have not been on the market long enough for meaningful studies to be done on safety and performance. Among these are EPDM, (Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer) which is manufactured from virgin rubber along with TPE, (Thermo Plastic Elastomer) which has been approved for use in NYC parks.

Rather than using inorganic fill, some school districts have opted for organic fill comprised of coconut husks, cork of olive pits. The benefit is that the organic fill is cooler, sustainable and does not emit toxins. The architect warned that the material tends to move after heavy rains and may require more maintenance and would also require irrigation during dry periods to prevent it from getting dusty. However, resident Michelle Sterling said she spoke to the facilities directors in Bronxville, Irvington and Pleasantville, where the organic fill was installed, and they all had only positive things to say about this turf.

Costs to remove the current turf and install these surfaces were estimated as follows by BBS, though Assistant Superintendent Stuart Mattey said that the district would need to put the project out to bid, and costs may vary.

Green Coated Crumb Rubber $1,466,349
EPDM with Shock Pad $1,716,942
Organic Infill with Shock Pad $1,900,249
Removal of Synthetic Turf, Replace with Grass $1,346,526

Following the presentation, a lively conversation ensued. Board members were given the chance to ask questions first. Lee Maude wanted to know if the track surrounding the turf needed to be replaced at the same time, and they answer was no, but that it would possibly be more efficient to do the two projects together.

Art Rublin asked Stuart Mattey if there were facilities projects in the current proposed budget that could be cut to pay for the turf? Mattey advised that the facilities work in the budget was all a priority and it would be” kicking the can down the road” to defer any of it to a later date.

Nina Cannon asked a question about a 8-10 foot net that will be installed around the turf to prevent balls from flying off the field onto the track. The architect said that this is common practice.

Almost two hours into the meeting, before opening the floor to public comments, Board President Bill Natbony said, “99% of the emails we got were to save our turf field. With that we have made no decisions. We’ll try to stay open to all kinds of qualifiers. We read your emails; believe me we’ve read them. I responded to people.” He asked people to limit their comments to 3 minutes and said, “If someone says something you agree with, you can get up and say me too.”

First up, was Beth Dell'Orto, a co-president of sports booster organization Maroon and White who read a statement from the M&W Board and past presidents that you can read in its entirety here. They asked the Board to research materials and to replace the turf field with a synthetic filed in time for Fall 2018 installation. They said that grass was not feasible as it requires more upkeep and is not always available to meet playing schedules and team requirements.

Rippy Phillips recounted the history of the first field and said that part of the deal was that the school would maintain it as a turf field forever. At the time, vending machines were installed at the middle school and high school to generate revenue for replacement of the turf, but that revenue was later assumed by the school cafeterias. He said the turf was “the town’s pride and joy.” He also said there was not evidence to link carcinogens in fields to cancer in the players.

Michelle Sterling spoke about the danger of crumb rubber surfaces including toxicity and off gassing, which causes the players to breath in chemicals. She said there was insufficient data on coated crumb rubber and EPDM and warned that TPE is a polymer of rubber and plastic that contains harmful chemicals. She said, “To me, hands down, organic infill is the way to go.” She said she spoke to representatives from Bronxville, Irvington and Pleasantville who all raved about their organic infill and said, “we’re thinking about health and safety … why wouldn’t we go with the highest GMax rating?” She said she was also an advocate for natural turf (grass) which never needs to be replaced.

Sterling explained that artificial turfs shed plastic fibers which are breathed in and ingested. She said that a study by Brigham and Young University found that the crumb rubber get very hot on warm days, sometimes over 100 degrees, while natural turf stays cool.

Claire Paquin a Scarsdale mom and SHS alumni said she played three varsity sports at SHS and now runs the youth lacrosse program in town. Since the younger children have to play on the grass fields at the middle school, she often walks the fields and finds them too wet to play. She spoke in favor of a turf field, saying “there is no definitive research “on the danger of turf fields. “Grass is off the table – we have a million grass fields that we can’t use. Why add another?”

Dan Ornstein, a board member of SYLA, said “finding fields is next to impossible. The grass fields are overused as it is. That’s why the turf field is getting a tremendous amount of usage. I hope grass is out. I have faith that you will make the right decision about the kind of turf. There hasn’t been a real concern about virgin rubber …. all the rubber is the same material that is used in everything we use.”

Ron Schulhof said, “After considerable research, I think we should go back to natural grass. Over time you start to hear concerns about inorganic surfaces. In five years, if we find out there is a health risk, it would not be a shock to me. It is not a tradeoff I think this community should make.”

Michael Crowley said “My kids have benefited from the athletic program. I have faith and confidence that you will make the right decision. Also repair the track at the same time – it is probably in the same level of disrepair and the track and field team has the most kids participating – and is used by the community 24 hours a day.”

Following the public comments, the board turned to a discussion of how much to allocate in the budget, while not immediately deciding on the surface which will be reviewed by a district wide community. Dr. Hagerman said it was important for the committee to do its work. He said, “There are coaches who work in different seasons … we need to build consensus by the committee and they can be cheerleaders about getting the message out to the community.”

Rublin felt that the community needed synthetic turf, but argued for the organic infill, saying he was not comfortable with any other fill than the organic infill.

Cannon wanted to give the committee more parameters – and asked that they only look at sustainable and organic options and consider the safe and health of whatever they choose. She also asked that the committee consider another option called Envirofill that has a 16-year warrantee.

Pam Feuhrer said, “We don’t have the EPA study results which are supposed to come out this spring… If the EPA says crumb rubber is healthy and safe, depending on their results we might have other thoughts,” to which Rublin replied, “Remember it’s Scott Pruitt’s EPA!”

Morin said that there were not conclusive results about the playability and safety of organic infill. He agreed that it should be an artificial turf field, not grass, and that the track should be done at the same time.

Bill reminded the Board that they did not have to decide on the surface at this meeting, just the funding in the budget. He said, “We owe it to the community to have a minimum placeholder (for funds) and a charge to the committee.”

Lee Maude said, “The administration should figure out the field. … we have to figure out the budget number; and now we’re at 2.65%. Just a few weeks ago we were at 2%. Unfortunately we had this budget process up to 3 or 4 weeks ago and then Florida happened and boom we put in $250 grand for safety and now we’re putting another $500 grand into the field. I am troubled about how we got here.”
Nina Cannon asked, “Is there something else that you could possibly defer?” Art Rublin asked if the money could be taken from the fund balance. Mattey recommended “no” to both questions.

After much discussion, the Board agreed to allocate $1.9 million for a synthetic field replacement in the proposed 2018/19 school budget. They directed the administration to form a committee of stakeholders to consider the materials. They have taken the options of grass turf and crumb rubber off the table. They also decided that the new track should be installed at the same time.

This decision to allocate $1.9 million to the turf raised the proposed 2018/19 school budget to $157,849,656, which is a budget to budget increase of 2.71% and a 2.74% increase in the tax levy. This will mean a 2.65% increase for Scarsdale residents and a 4.22% increase for those in the Mamaroneck strip.

After several years of minimal budget increases, the board found themselves without surplus reserves or fund balances to pay for necessary improvements while keeping tax increases at a minimum.

Watch the entire meeting on video here

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ScarsdalePoolThe Scarsdale Recreation Department is offering an early bird discount for sign ups before April 3rd. Parents will save $235 per child for the full season by enrolling before the deadline.

The Village provides a wide variety of recreational and educational programs for all children who are residents of Scarsdale.
Here’s what you need to know:

Enrollment: Approximately 900 campers grades K-8
Camper-counselor ratio: Kindergarten, 6:1; first grade, 6:1; second grade, 8:1; third-eighth grade starts at 8:1 and goes up to 12:1
Calendar: Monday, July 2-Friday, Aug. 3
Hours: 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
Transportation: Provided from each elementary school, Scarsdale High School, George Field Park, Kids’ BASE and Scarsdale Pool.
Fees: Early bird fee by signing up by April. Full-day season $995. Weekly options also available.
Special programs/other: Combination camp: campers in third-eighth grades can choose soccer or sports camp in the morning and regular day camp in the afternoon (separate fee). Specialty elective programs will be offered during the season for third-eighth-graders (additional fee).

Scarsdale Recreation Summer Day Camp
Village Hall — Parks and Recreation
1001 Post Road
Scarsdale, NY 10583
(914) 722-1160
Director: Jim Andreski
recreation@scarsdale.com
www.scarsdale.com/campcentral.

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shsberke1(This opinion piece was sent to Scarsdale10583 by Ray Cooper)
What has compelled me to write my first commentary on Scarsdale10583.com? It is the news that the Board of Education is allowing two engraved plaques, at a cost of $38,000, to be placed inside the Scarsdale High School. These plaques will list the names of donors who gave $10,000 or more to the Scarsdale Schools Education Foundation (SSEF) to supplement the 2014 taxpayer funded school bond. Allowing these plaques inside our schools is simply wrong. I, along with most residents, moved here to provide our children with a high quality public school education. Elevating the status of some families has no place in our public school system, especially where the school’s motto of “non sibi” (not for self) is at the core of our school values. Moreover, no child should be left to feel bad that his or her family name does not appear on a recognition plaque in school, or that a family could not afford a high level donation. It is remarkable to me that the BOE does not see this concern.

Back in 2014, when Scarsdale developed plans to bond new facilities in our schools, I was wary but not opposed to private donations through the SSEF for school improvements. I followed the issues back then and I was satisfied that individuals were not being singled out with praise as donors. Fast-forward 4 years to March 19, 2018. I learned that the BOE appeared to approve designs for plaques containing recognition of high level donors, and that these plaques are to be placed at the entrances to the new SHS fitness center and design lab. The BOE’s approval was made in the middle of the night, without public discussion among the board, and without input from the community.

In 2014 the BOE entered into a memorandum of understand with the SSEF “to support an appropriate means of recognizing donors.” There was no mention of engraved plaques or singling out individual families for recognition. On March 15, 2018 the SSEG wrote a letter to the school superintendent about proposed donor plaques “seeking Board of Education approval of both the preliminary designs and the cost estimates.” This item made its way onto the BOE agenda for its March 19th meeting; however, its inclusion in the agenda was quite obscured. While I received the notice for the BOE March 19th meeting, wholly absent from this notice was any reference to the plaque proposal. In fact, the BOE notice listed 5 separate items on the agenda that night, including the meeting’s featured purpose: the upcoming school budget proposal. Buried in the bowels of the on-line “board packet” and brought onto the floor at the BOE meeting after 11:00 pm were the proposed plaques. I am perplexed reading the quote from school board president Bill Natbony claiming that the schematic in the board’s packet posted on line was sufficient to obtain public buy-in. (Also problematic is that the posted design schematic is not legible.) I watched on replay the BOE’s “middle of the night” discussion of this issue. The BOE discussed the odd way for funding the $38,000 for the plaques but did not discuss at all its rationale for listing high-level donor names. It also did not discuss the steep price tag for these plaques. Can’t we spend this money in a better way? Perusing the current proposed school budget, for $38,000 our high school can hire two new varsity coaches. It is not difficult to find other meaningful expenditures for this money.

Additionally, I wonder: if these donor recognition plaques were mentioned upfront as part and parcel of the SSEF agreement, would our community have supported our school’s partnership with the SSEF? I suspect most donors provided funding to the SSEF because they wanted to support enhancements to our school’s facilities, and not for individual recognition on a plaque. I am sure the SSEF and the BOE can come up with other, more reasonable ways to recognize the SSEF and its donors. The BOE is on a course for a very unsettling precedent: will more donor recognition plaques make their way onto our school walls the next time the SSEF has a capital campaign or a large gift is made to our schools? Perhaps a forward thinking BOE policy is warranted, as this issue will again appear as we continue to strive to improve our school facilities. The BOE should add these plaques back onto the agenda for a future BOE meeting and (1) provide the public with full and fair notice of it, (2) provide the public with a full BOE discussion on the issue, and (3) provide the public with a reasonable opportunity to give input.

I grew up in a family of life-long public school educators. While I no longer have school age children, I still strongly believe in the importance of a public school education and the values of our Scarsdale schools. I do not think the BOE is acting in the best interests of our children here. I hope this ship has not sailed and that the BOE reconsiders supporting the proposed plaques. I encourage other residents to let the BOE hear from you on this important topic.

Ray Cooper

(From the 3/19 Board of Education Meeting Agenda)

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people commentsThis statement was sent to Scarsdale10583 by the League of Women Voters of Scarsdale:

Introduction
The League of Women Voters of Scarsdale (the “League”) thanks members of the Board of Education (the “Board”) and District Administration (the “Administration”) for participating in a panel at the League’s General Membership School Budget Information Meeting and addressing questions on the Proposed School Budget 2018-19 (the “Budget”) on March 12, 2018 at Village Hall. The League acknowledges, with appreciation, the substantial time and effort that goes into developing the proposed Budget and thanks the Administration and the Board for their additional effort spent in preparing for our meeting. The League appreciates the opportunity for Question and Answer exchange and dialogue with members of the Administration and Board. This statement reflects the consensus of League members at a Consensus Meeting held immediately following the Information Meeting.

Position
The League supports the Scarsdale School District Proposed Budget for 2018-19 and recommends that the community vote yes to approve the Proposed Budget on Tuesday, May 15, 2018 at the Scarsdale Middle School. The League offers its comments and recommendations regarding certain budgetary items as well as the budget process, which we hope will be considered as the Budget is revised and finalized.

Budget Overview and Noteworthy Features
The current Budget draft is $156,899,407, with a budget-to-budget increase of 2.09% ($3.2 million) and a tax levy growth of 2.07%. Per the District, the estimated tax increase for an average assessed property valued at $1,595,700 would be: Scarsdale residents $482 (1.98% increase) and Mamaroneck Strip residents $767 (3.53%). Key Budget increases include a one-time expense of $1.025 million to support Tax Certiorari settlements, an increase in mandatory contributions for Employee and Teacher Retirement Service (ERS and TRS), as well as contractually negotiated salary increases (0.47%). The Budget includes a rise in Special Education and Transportation. An increase in employee health care costs also contributes to the overall budget growth. The draft Budget proposes transferring $600,000 out of the Healthcare Reserves due to an over-budget amount anticipated for the 2017-18 school year.

In preparation for student enrollment projections, the Budget adds 2.4 Full Time positions, resulting in two Full Time Contingency Elementary Teachers, one Full Time Contingency Special Education Teacher, and a part-time (.4) Contingency STEAM Teacher for the high school. At the Board meeting preceding the fourth and final budget draft session, the Administration recommended $250,000 toward Security enhancement, including a recommendation for a Director of Security ($125,000). If the proposed Budget ultimately includes the $250,000 for Security, the associated tax levy would increase from 2.07% to 2.25%.

The District is currently in strong financial health with a Moody’s stable outlook and Aaa bond rating. In April 2014, Moody’s issued a “negative” outlook for Scarsdale Union Free School District, due to the District’s over-reliance on non-recurring revenue and reduced level of reserve funds. At the League Information Session, the Administration noted that the Moody’s negative outlook has since been removed as a result of the District’s replenishment of its various reserve funds. The Administration further noted that the New York State Comptroller monitors the fiscal health of school districts and that Scarsdale passed the agency’s fiscal stress test.

At the final budget study session on March 5, the District provided a draft Budget Book, which is available as a resource to the community on the District website.

Comments and Recommendations

General
The League notes, with some concern, that overall, the current year budget, as well as this Budget represent very tight budgeting practices. The League encourages the District to consider unforeseen expenditures and unpredictable cost increases in their budget planning process.

While the League appreciates the Board’s efforts to manage the impact of tax increases on residents, we are aware that educational needs are constantly changing and therefore the League seeks to ensure that our school budgets not only maintain but continuously enhance Scarsdale education.

Staffing and Class Size
The League supports investment in staffing our schools appropriately, including budgeting for contingency positions to support current elementary class size practices and high school norms. The League notes its concern that the District is engaging in tight budgeting practices at a time when additional models for delivery of educational services to students are being explored and the projected enrollment forecasts an additional 43 students in the elementary schools. The League recommends ensuring that all student needs are met. In light of the District effort to keep more students in District schools, the League would like the Administration and Board to articulate and clarify the policy regarding class size and staffing practices, as well as spatial standards, for Co-taught Inclusion (CTI) and Bridge classes. We encourage the Administration and Board to be mindful not only of student/ teacher ratio but also the physical space, including square footage of the classroom, in relation to the amount of students and staff in a given space, in order to ensure the adequate delivery of educational services for all students.

Capital Investment
The League recommends that the Board clearly articulate its approach to annual budgeting for Plant and Capital improvements in the context of a long-range facilities plan. The League notes that Plant and Capital Improvements are currently budgeted at $2,045,203, representing a 29.91% decrease from the 2017-18 Budget. Given that several of our schools were built over a century ago, capital improvement is of utmost importance. Our buildings must maintain and enhance student learning; and be safe, sustainable and flexible spaces able to support 21st century innovation and future programs.

The League supports the inclusion of capital improvement projects in the annual operating budget. We recommend an articulation of the approach behind the Plant and Capital investment budget line. For the given ten years between now and the next Bond roll-off in 2028, the League recommends that the Administration and Board create a ten year projection and schedule of how facilities needs and capital improvements will be included in the annual operating budget. The League also recommends that the consistent investment in capital improvement be sufficient to keep a long list of infrastructure repairs from necessary inclusion in the next Bond.

State Calculated Tax Levy Limit (the ‘tax cap’)
This year, the allowable tax levy growth under the New York State “Tax Cap” law is 3.08%, thus the proposed Budget is 1.01% below the tax levy limit. The tax cap serves as a threshold for determining the percentage of voters required to approve the budget. In the event that a district seeks an increase beyond the tax levy limit, 60% of voter approval is required to pass the budget. If a district requests an increase either at or below the cap, approval by a simple majority (over 50%) can pass the budget.

At the League Information Session preceding Consensus, the Administration noted that the tax cap is not a driver of the budget process. Similarly, Board President Natbony said that the tax cap is not a targeted goal. Both the Administration and Board noted that they have remained cognizant of the new Federal tax laws and the impact on Scarsdale residents, during the draft budget process.

The League notes that the current draft Budget is $1,429,955 below the tax cap. The League understands the desire to keep the tax levy growth as low as possible; however, the League is concerned about being far below the tax cap with regard to planning for next year’s budget. If we are not spending up to the cap, our allowable levels for the following year are lowered.

Security Enhancement
In the final Budget study session, Dr. Hagerman noted that our schools have to be safe spaces at all times; warm, welcoming and filled with supportive and caring adults. Dr. Hagerman further noted that we all have an obligation to create the kind of community in which we want to live. The League echoes this sentiment and hopes that implemented security measures reflect and connect to the values of the entire school community. In light of the recommendation to hire a Director of Security, the League hopes that the District is proactive with safety measures, rather than reactive. The League hopes that the District Safety Committee seeks and receives input from the community.

If the recommended Director of Security is more than a one year position, the League recommends to include the position as a line item in the annual operating budget and not to take the funds from reserves. In response to the League question of how the Administration would approach funding Security in the Budget; the Administration spoke of not funding recurring expenses with one-time revenues such as fund balance. The League supports the Administration’s view and recommends including the total $250,000 for a Director of Security and the implementation of security enhancements, as a budget line, and not to take the funds from the reserves.

Curricular Enhancement
As per the Administration, current curriculum practices correlate to the Scarsdale Education for Tomorrow, 2.0 vision statement. Elements included are the Wellness Initiative, the Teachers’ College Reading and Writing Program, Singapore Math and further development of Math Leaders among the faculty, as well as Next Generation Science Standards, the latter will be implemented next year. There is also an expansion of the 1:1 Bring your own Device Initiative, which was introduced in the elementary schools and will be launched in 6th grade at Scarsdale Middle School next year.

The League acknowledges that this year marks a transitional moment as longtime Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction, Lynne Shain, will retire at the end of the school year. The League acknowledges that the District is establishing curricular consistency, while allowing room for teacher latitude and autonomy, across the District elementary schools. The League encourages the District’s pursuit of forward-looking curricular initiatives and program enhancements that continue to support and develop the students and provide environments that stimulate innovation and educational excellence.

Transportation
The Transportation budget line is $4,190,581 and supports student transportation to and from District schools for students who reside 1.5 miles or more from their school. The District also provides transportation for students living more than 1.5 miles from private or parochial schools located within a 15 mile radius of their Scarsdale address. In addition, the District transports 261 students to 56 private, parochial and special education programs both in and out of Scarsdale. The District buses students to athletic and other extracurricular events as well as school-related field trips. The Transportation budget also includes the maintenance of the District’s fleet of buses and the purchase of new vehicles as needed.

A long-range vehicle replacement plan is currently in progress as the District’s fleet is aging. In light of the current vehicle replacement plan, the League recommends an evaluation of actual usage and efficiency of the fleet as well as an evaluation of the most cost-effective way to support transportation, within the constraints of the law. If the District is currently looking at transportation efficiency, as per the above recommendation, then the League requests that the District publicly communicate, in a detailed way, how the District is utilizing resources in the most efficient manner to meet all demands of transportation.

Budget Process
The League supports the Administration’s stated year-round process for budget development. The League also supports a bottom-up process for building the budget and especially encourages the Board to prioritize community engagement throughout its budget process.

The League recommends that the Board consider ways to more proactively engage the community in next year’s budget development process. The League acknowledges that the bond process made prioritizing budget-related community engagement difficult this year. However, we note that the Board budget calendar released in September 2017 originally scheduled two public forums in November for early community input and we urge to the Board to restore these opportunities for public input into next year’s budget calendar.

The League also suggests that the Board consider ways in which community engagement at public meetings might be more effectively encouraged and facilitated, such as:

- Publicizing the detailed meeting agenda further in advance so that community members are aware of the schedule of topics to be addressed in Board discussion;
- Designating more conducive moments for community members to express their views, such as consistently allowing comment earlier in the meeting agenda; and
- Addressing the often long wait time between public comment and the Board response to public comment.

The League appreciates that the Administration presents different aspects of the Budget at each of the budget study sessions; however, the League reiterates our recommendation that the Administration have a full draft budget book available earlier in the process next year in order for the community to have ample time to study, understand and raise questions about the comprehensive draft budget before the date scheduled for formal community input.

Communication
The League maintains that providing context to the budget numbers is integral to the community’s ability to evaluate the Budget. Therefore, in addition to current Administration and Board communication outreach, including the District publication, Insight, the League recommends that the Budget be accompanied by an overview explaining how the Budget specifically supports District objectives, goals and community values.

As there are substantial issues with future budget implications currently being discussed at the District committee level -- such as Sustainability, Food Service and Air Conditioning -- the League requests that the Administration and Board apprise the community of the current discussion progress on these topics and inform the community about the nature of the discussion and potential committee findings. The League encourages the District to implement additional outreach methods and timely communication practices to inform the community.

Advocacy
Especially in light of the Administration’s additional recommended security measures, the League supports the Administration and Board’s proposal to craft a statement to send to our elected officials urging state funding support for school safety, sensible gun control measures and the implementation of mental and emotional health programming in schools.

The League recommends that the Administration and Board reinstate a Legislative Advisory Committee in order to monitor relevant legislative issues; increase the number of community members educated on current issues as well as to expand the community’s engagement; and to raise an awareness of the purpose of these funds. Another rationale for reinstating the Committee is to allow community members to lobby in Albany for Curriculum, Special Education, APPR, School Safety, and various relevant advocacy action items.

The League further reiterates last year’s recommendation that the Administration and Board take on a greater role in advocacy and leadership for our District and for public schools in general.

In conclusion, we thank all members of the Administration and Board for consideration of our statement. The League looks forward to the release of the Board’s final budget iteration resulting from having considered comments made by the community.

Sincerely,

Leah Dembitzer
Budget Study Chair
League of Women Voters of Scarsdale

Janice Starr and Linda Doucette-Ashman
Co-Presidents
League of Women Voters of Scarsdale

Footnotes:

i Budget Book, p. 2.
ii One FTE Contingency Elementary position is carried over from 2017-18 school year.
iii As noted by the District during the League Information Session on March 12, 2018.
iv Scarsdale U.F.S.D. earned a “O” fiscal score on the NYS Comptroller’s 2017 stress test, indicating no sources of fiscal stress on the District. https://www.osc.state.ny.us/localgov/fiscalmonitoring/schools/pdf/2017/summary-list.pdf
v Scarsdale Schools’ maximum class size is 22 students in grades K-3 and 24 students in grades 4 and 5. The historical norm at the High School is to have no more than 12% of class sections with greater than 25 students.
v1 District Enrollment Summary on p. 4 of Budget Book.
vii District discusses tax levy and limit on p. 13 of Budget Book.
viii The current draft budget has a projected tax levy of 2.07% and a projected tax levy limit of 3.08%.
ix In response to a League question posed about the implications for being below the tax cap, at the March 13 Public Comment Session for the Budget, Stuart Mattey pointed out that Capital Improvements do not count toward the tax cap. Mr. Mattey noted that current budget planning process and new Federal tax laws were on their mind during budget development.
x March 5 Board meeting discussion on Security and Safety at our schools.
xi Detailed information on Transportation on pp. 49-50 of Proposed Budget 2018-19, Budget Book, March, 5, 2018.
xiiThe Budget Book was made available on March 5, 2018. The League has requested, in past School Budget Consensus statements, that the Budget Book be available in January or February, early in the draft process.
xiii As noted by the League at the Information Session, the practice of including a cover letter from the Board to the community, outlining community priorities and values and connecting these values to the budget numbers, used to be in practice in the District. These letters can be read in the “Archived Budget Documents” on the District website, 2008-2013 budgets.
xiv Westchester Putnam School Board Association Resolution Template for Safe School Measures Now is available on the District website under Board docs from the March 5, 2018 Business Meeting.

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