Saturday, Aug 13th

Community Outlines Priorities for 20-21 School Budget

imagesPossibly in response to comments from community groups last year, this year the Scarsdale Board of Education held a community budget forum before beginning the budget process for 2020-21.

What would the community like to see funded next year? What items were deleted from prior year’s budgets that should be given priority this year?

At the meeting on November 14, School Superintendent Dr. Thomas Hagerman vowed to make the budget process more open and transparent and to listen to community priorities. Assistant Superintendent Stuart Mattey is in the process of meeting with each of the school’s principals to understand each buildings needs. Hagerman said that some elements of the district’s new strategic plan such as sustainability and curated resources would be included in the budget.

Assistant Superintendent Stuart Mattey explained a few of the factors that will drive the budgeting process.

- Enrollment projections will dictate required staffing
- The projected increase in the district’s contribution to the state funded teachers retirement system is now predicted to be above 9%
- The increase in Westchester sales tax should provide more revenue, however these funds may be needed to offset the increase in the TRS contribution.
- The district will need to furnish and equip the new spaces to open at Greenacres School.

What would parents like to see?

Speaking on behalf of the PTA Executive Committee, SHS PTA President Deb Morel spoke about the importance of renovating the high school auditorium. She said it was “desperately needed…. The seats are broken, the material is torn and stained and the carpet is worn. It has been in the budget year after year and it gets cut in the end.” She said, “What ought to be a source of pride has become a source of embarrassment. We urge you to keep the SHS auditorium in the 20-21 budget.”

Diane Baylor spoke on behalf of the PTC budget committee. She posed questions about items that have been batted around but cut in prior years.

She said, “What is the status of capital projects considered but not implemented
What tech infrastructure improvements have been considered but not completed. Can the school district coordinate with the village where we have poor cell service – what can be done to improve that?

Turning to transportation she said, “Would it be worthwhile to do a transportation study? Certain buses are running full and certain busses are running empty – how much wiggle room do we have to change things around?

Leah Dembitzer, President of the League of Women Voters of Scarsdale posed the following questions:

Safety and Security

1) The 2019-20 Budget line for Security was $1,294,031, which was an increase of $824,418 over 2018-19. $805,407 of the 2019-20 budget line was allotted to security monitor and rover salaries and an additional $186,624 (net cost after receiving BOCES aid will be approximately $74,650) for consultant and security director services.

Has the District found that the additional monitors have helped increase safety and security at our schools? Does the District plan to continue with the additional hours and security positions? Is there any data or benchmarking information, available to the public, to help evaluate the efficacy of additional security staffing and hours?

Strategic Plan/ Curriculum

2) The Curriculum budget line has been relatively flat over the past two years. How will the curricular enhancements included in the Strategic Plan affect the Curriculum budget line for 2020- 2021?

3) How will the curricular enhancements outlined in the Strategic Plan be prioritized for implementation?

4) Will a vision for future capital improvement projects be incorporated into the Strategic Plan?

Plant Improvement/ Capital Projects

5) Is there an overall capital improvement plan, building by building, including, for example: renovation of the high school auditorium, the addition of kitchens at Fox Meadow and Edgewood, and a plan to renovate the SMS fitness center?

6) What is the District’s long-term air conditioning plan and will air conditioning be included in the 2020- 2021 budget?

7) Will landscape screening and a new sound system for Butler Field be included in the 2020- 2021 budget? In addition to the architectural and legal costs referred to at a previous Board meeting, please detail any additional costs incurred by the district as associated with the addition of field lights.

8) Would the administration speak to some of the current challenges associated with Food Service in the elementary schools and Middle School. Has there been any thought to improving Food Service, logistically and in terms of space, at the Middle School?

Class Size/ Enrollment

9) Enrollment exceeded anticipated numbers in 2019- 2020. The Administration had predicted 2001 and we were at 2064 students as of the Sept 19 Board meeting.

In light of a more robust enrollment in the 2019- 2020 school year and as you are entering Budget season, would the Board please publicly clarify and define its view on appropriate class size? Have any elementary classes exceeded the class size cap for the 2019- 2020 year? How will the 2020- 2021 budget address enrollment?

10) As the Middle School house structure does not really lend itself to additional staffing in the same way as at the elementary or HS level, how does the District increase support for grades with larger class sizes at the Middle School?

11) During last year’s budget process, when the High School Administration was at the Board table, we heard of some larger than ideal class sizes at the high school. Has the additional staffing helped reduce the larger class sizes? Have you received feedback from department chairs that the issue has been resolved?

Board member Alison Singer said, “One thing we heard over and over was the need for an additional turf field in the Village and at the school. I was hoping we could look into that.” Stuart Mattey responded, “Dean Field will be re-sodded this summer. The next priority would be the middle school for a turf field. Ray has to look at that. It is obviously a big ticket.”

Board member Chris Morin asked if The Little Theater at SHS was also a priority. He said, “ Should it be redeveloped into something new? It should be considered in light of our study of performance spaces.”

Board member Ron Schulhof said, “ It would be good to hear some proposals for shared services with the village.” He added, “Is there potential state legislation that could impact our budget? New state mandates? What is our process for determining that? When will the next bond issue mature?

Stuart Mattey, replied, “There will be a bond vote in 2026 for work to start in 2028 – the amount would be $45 million.”

On the flip side, board member Chris Morin asked, “ Are there items we can reduce, do less or go away through attrition?”

College News:


Former Scarsdale High School girls soccer standout Allison Stafford and her Amherst College teammates won the 2019 New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) women's soccer championship on November 10 with a 1-0 win over arch-rival Middlebury. Allison is top row, second from the left. The team now moves on to the national Division III tournament.

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