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Lights at Butler Field, Principal to Retire, Health Reserves and More from the Board of Education

darienlightsThe Board of Education discussed lights at Butler Field, the health reserve, school security, construction and accepted a retirement at their March 11 meeting. The entire meeting is available to view online but here are few items of interest.

Health Insurance Reserves

In an effort to determine just how much the district needs to hold in health reserves, the board heard a presentation from consultant Patrick Cowburn on setting reserves for the district’s self insured health plan.

The consultant recommended that the district place $4.6 million in the health insurance reserve and an additional $4.6 million as an accrual to cover 3 months of current claims for a total of $9.2 million. Though the total amount of $9.2 million remains the same as the number in the proposed 2019-20 school budget, the consultant recommended that the total funds be split evenly between the reserve funds and an accrual.

There are no hard and fast rules for setting these reserves, but general municipal law recommends that the district hold a minimum of 25% of projected claims in accrual, between 15% and 24% of projected premiums in a claim stabilization reserve and 7% of projected premiums in a surplus account. Using these recommendations the consultant determined that Scarsdale’s reserves should be between $8.5 mm and $10.2 mm and he therefore recommended 9.2%.

Here is the analysis:


During the discussion, Board Member Bill Natbony asked if that reserve could be reduced so that funds could be returned to taxpayers or spent on another expense. He suggested that if the Board allocated the minimum recommendation of $8.5 mm, there would be a one time saving of $500,000.

However Scarsdale School’s Treasurer Jeff Martin and Assistant Superintendent for Business Stuart Mattey cautioned that if the district reduced the budget by that amount and there was a shortfall, they would need to fill the gap by raising taxes next year to refill that reserve. Nina Cannon asked if we could reduce the budget on a one-time basis and “return these funds to the taxpayers.” Martin explained that if the district makes that reduction this year, they would need to continue to reduce other budget lines next year to make up for the shortfall.

Board President Scott Silberfein asked other board members for their views:

Chris Morin said, “I don’t have a rationale for one number vs. another,” while Pam Fuehrer said, “I would cut it if there was something else we needed to fund” and later said,”I don’t want to create a bigger hole to fill next year.”

Stuart Mattey said, “We try to avoid hills and valleys – and try to keep the budget constant – maybe we should drop it over two or three years, for example $250,000 and $250,000.”

Lee Maude “My problem is that once the money is in reserves, we don’t have a lot of control over it. Do we need to go from 2 months of accrual to 3 months? I will look to future boards to take a look at it. We should spend money in the budget for what it was intended – rather that do transfers to fund other items.”

Cowburn pointed out, “In 2014 the reserve dropped to $50,000 because of claims from preceding years. It can be difficult to have to fund that reserve moving forward. From my standpoint it is easier to save than to regenerate. Once you give away money it’s gone.”

Silberfein asked what impact reducing the reserve could have on the district’s bond rating from Moody’s. Martin said the district did get a negative rating when they let reserves drop. Silberfein suggested the board defer the decision until the March 25th meeting or wait until next year and analyze it again. He was concerned about reducing reserves due to the Moody’s rating.

RetirementEdgewoodHouseknechtEdgewood Principal Scott Houseknecht at an Edgewood Centennial Celebration in January.

Edgewood Principal Scott Houseknecht announced that his retirement effective June 30, 2019 after 29 years in Scarsdale.

In his retirement letter, Houseknecht wrote, “ the Edgewood faculty, staff, parents and students truly make Edgewood School a special place. I’ve had many conversations with alumni through the past decades, in a couple of cases going back to the early 1920’s. Through these conversations and from talking to former teachers and parents, I know that Edgewood has long been a close-knit community with a shared vision, where the needs and interests of our students drive practice. I feel fortunate to have been entrusted with the leadership opportunity as Edgewood’s sixth principal to continue that long tradition, and I hope I leave having established a climate for those who remain to take Edgewood to an even higher level.”

The district will now need to fill two principal positions, as Fox Meadow currently has an interim school principal after Duncan Wilson left in June 2018.


The Board considered signing a letter written by Amy Paulin that objects to cuts in state aid, some of which affect Scarsdale and others that do not. They agreed that the proposed decrease in state building aid from 10% to 5% could adversely affect Scarsdale later on. They also agreed that the STAR rebate should be sent in a check to residents rather than offered as a deduction to property tax bills. The Board agreed to draft their own version of the letter incorporating items 2-6 to send to Albany. Review the letter here:

School Security

District Security Chief Mike Spedaliere announced the implementation of a new visitor screening system for the schools.

The school will implement a new Visitor Management System that will screen visitors to the schools in late April and May. The visitor will be asked for their driver’s license to be scanned and compared to the sex offender files in 50 states and any local alerts. The visitor will need to give their destination in the building and the monitor will call to make sure the visitor has an appointment to enter before they are allowed access to the building. The visitor will receive a name-tag with their name, destination and time of entry. The school will come up with regulations on how the monitor should handle a variety of situations including greeting, screening and exiting.


Stuart Mattey announced that plans for the renovation of Greenacres School had just cleared the state education department and that the district would send the project out to bid this week. The bids will be on the agenda of the April 29 Board of Education meeting. The district hopes to begin the work this summer. Other summer work will include a new roof for the Heathcote School and the construction of security vestibules which were approved by the education department and are now out to bid. Those bids will be on the agenda of the April 8, 2019 meeting of the BOE. Middle school hot water heaters have been installed.

Mattey announced the formation of a Greenacres construction committee and was looking for three community representatives with construction expertise to serve on the committee. He wants to hear from those who are interested by March 22. Interested? Email him here. Mattey said the administration would meet with parents at Greenacres on May 1 at 7 pm to review updated construction and safety plans. Silberfein said the Greenacres Neighborhood Association had also asked for a meeting on school construction and wondered if it could be done at the same time.

Lights for Butler Field

Athletic Director Ray Pappalardi came before the Board seeking approval to take the next steps towards installing lights on Butler Field. He reported that he held many meetings over the past three months and heard community concerns about the lights, noise and evening games. He said that since the lights would be on Village property and the Village has a noise ordinance in effect from 11 pm to 7 am, the Village would also have some role in the approval process.

Pappalardi was looking to the Board for approval to go through the SEQRA process, which is an environmental impact review and was also in need of a “Memorandum of Understanding” between Maroon and White and the school district. The initial cost of the SEQRA review would be $1,250.

The board had a lengthy discussion about if and how donors would be recognized and determined that they would need to come up with a donor recognition policy.

Board members varied in their views on how donors should be recognized with Alison Singer arguing that it would be up to Maroon and White to recognize their own donors – and not to display their names on school property. Others said that donors’ names were already present at the high school on pavers at the field, in the courtyard and on plaques in the school. Nina Cannon said, “I do feel there is an appropriate way for a public institution to recognize our donors – working at a City University – there are few places that are not named. There is a way to tastefully recognize our donors.”

At the end of the conversation, the board agreed that they had given support for the installation of the lights, but that they needed to define if and how donors would be recognized and therefore said that Maroon and White should be clear that this policy had not yet been set. Though the Board had no objections to Maroon and White beginning their fundraising, they said that no promises should be made to donors about how they would be recognized at the school.

The board agreed that Pappalardi could begin the SEQRA review, subject to agreement by Maroon and White to pay for it.

As for the memo of understanding, Ray Pappalardi said the memo would need to define usage, curfew times and provide guidelines on noise and scheduling. Dr. Hagerman asked for a fuller evaluation of the ongoing costs of the lights and an understanding of what costs the district might incur down the line.

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