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BOE Takes a First Look at Estimated Budget and Staffing for the 2019-20 School Year

The Board of Education received a first look at the estimated school budget for the 2019-20 school year and reviewed staffing requests for next year at their meeting on January 28, 2019.

Here are the numbers from the initial budget estimate as presented by Assistant Superintendent Stuart Mattey:

Estimated19 20Budget

Mattey explained that the higher than usual tax levy limit of 3.87% number is due to the CPI, tax base growth number and the allowable exclusion of debt service. This projected budget is $1,014,372 below the tax levy.

Increase for Scarsdale residents 2.52%
Increase for Mamaroneck strip 6.49%

Why the large difference in the increase in the tax rates between Scarsdale (2.52%) and Mamaroneck (6.49%)? These are due to the equalization rates for the two towns, which are 100% for the town of Mamaroneck and 94% for Scarsdale.

He also noted that the state has not yet set the rates for the Teacher’s Retirement System (TRS), so this projection estimates a 9% increase.

The discussion then turned to staffing which is a primary driver of the school budget.

Staffing at the elementary schools is down 4.1 full time employees (FTE’s) from the 2018-19 budget, with elementary school staffing at 191 FTE’s rather than the 195 FTE’s anticipated in the 2018-19 budget.

The administration made the following requests for additional staffing for the 2019 school budget. The cost of an additional employee is estimated at $110,000. See the full presentation here:

At the high school an additional science teacher is needed to “accommodate research and AT program expansion and to reduce the size of AT and accelerated courses.”

Also at the high school a full time math teacher is needed to teach STEAM and math courses. Currently there are 2 section of BC Calculus, each with 27 students and the high school anticipates that three sections will be needed next year. The school was not able to offer an honors math interdisciplinary course this year due to staffing. An increased number of sophomores are enrolled in STEAM electives, and would benefit for more STEAM offerings as they become upper classmen. The school hopes to offer an elective in APP development and may need to offer a second section of AT Entrepreneurship.

The administration is requesting an additional special education teacher at the high school for the Academic Support Center (ASC). This teacher would help students who are not classified but need additional support transitioning to the high school. The center assists students with navigating the curriculum and executive functioning.

The physical education department is requesting an additional .28 office assistant to manage reporting, gold cards, calendars, travel waivers and special projects.

At the middle school, a technical support person is needed to assist with the 1:1 iPad program. The full time support person would replace one aide and one tech summer intern so that the addition cost to the district would be $30,750.

An additional school psychologist has been requested for the elementary schools and central office for students “experiencing social, emotional or behavioral issues that would not currently rise to the level of direct psychological intervention….to focus on coping strategies, understanding differences and developing age appropriate peer to peer relations.”

The total cost for this additional staffing would be $256,550.

In the discussion following the proposal board members posed some questions about the additional staff requests.

Lee Maude noted that for the 2018-19 school year the district budgeted and taxed on a total of 624 employees, but primarily due to the drop in enrollment only hired 619. She asked, “Don’t we already have funding for new teachers for next year?"

Stuart Mattey explained that these staffing requests were additions to the actual staffing this year – not the budgeted number. He said, “Any funds left go into the fund balance.” Nina Cannon followed up, asking, “Can we use fund balance to offset the cost of the increase of hiring new FTE’s?” Mattey replied saying, “The fund balance is also affected by other budget factors and might not completely cover the staffing increase.” Adding, “You don’t want to use unassigned funds to fund ongoing expenses.” … “Typically we have about $1.1 million to use as unassigned fund balance and spend on facilities or plant improvements.”

Bill Natbony said, “I have trouble making decisions on staffing without the total picture of the budget. If the TRS increase goes down, that’s $700,000 that we could spend on staffing. The projected increase does not reflect the money in the fund balance – which we did not spend this year. I am not comfortable giving a nod to staff increases until I know where we are overall….Are we going to spend more on security? Until we have this broad based discussion I can’t in good conscious say let’s put this staffing in the budget.”

Pam Fuehrer asked Principal Bonamo, “I just want to be sure you have looked at your resources and are allocating them to their maximum capacity." Bonamo said, “Yes – we have reassigned two of our teachers – one math teacher is teaching Physics to allow the science teacher to teach a STEAM class. We have reached our capacity to make assignments to meet student needs. Without these additions, students will not be able to get the classes they requested. We are projecting an increase in demand in STEAM courses. About 98% of students get into the classes they request. ….Nearly 60 students are in high honors pre calc who will roll over into BC Calculus…. For Bio 513 we sometimes allow larger classes, projecting that some students will decide to move down. We try to be as frugal as we can in the use of resources.”

Lee Maude continued, “What we are not talking about is equity – the courses we are talking about tonight are not available to every child in the high school and I am troubled about this. These are not for 80% of our kids who can’t get into AT classes. It’s an issue for me if we don’t let kids take the classes that interest them.”

Bonamo responded, “By increasing the teaching power you are impacting the department overall because you are impacting all section sizes. … Students are placed in math levels in middle school. We do keep access open in high school. If they do summer study they can accelerate to a different level. The chair had 50 kids come in to take a placement tests this summer to jump a level in math. Science and math tend to be more ability based and leveling is appropriate.”

Assistant Superintendent Drew Patrick reminded the board about the assumptions underlying district staffing. He said, “Three things drive staffing:

-Class size maximums at elementary level
-The Middle School house and team structure
-At the High school – the course catalogue drives staffing

If we questions assumptions, we should go back to the underlying assumptions.”

In the coming weeks, the Board of Education has a series of budget study sessions scheduled to review major areas of the proposed 2019-20 school budget. These staffing requests will be reviewed again in light of the outcome of those discussions.

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