Sunday, Apr 14th

Board and Community Offer Thoughts on the State Tax Cap

BudgetThe District’s first Budget Study Session on February 5th, had Scarsdale abuzz with concern that the initial proposed draft for the 2024-2024 school budget exceeded the state-mandated tax cap. Budget Study # 2, presented at the BOE meeting on Monday March 4th, gave way to a deeper exploration of the incredible amount of thought and hard work that is involved in the budget development process and resulted in an hours long discussion between BOE members and the administration.

Dr. Drew Patrick started the presentation by reading a statement in which he explained many of the factors and reasons (including an effort to be more transparent) that contributed to the first proposal seeming so large. You can read more on that statement here

Patrick went on to propose a second draft of the budget which included $1,061,281 in cuts and reductions in expenditures. After a thorough presentation by administrators, members of the Board were given the floor to ask clarifying questions and share their thoughts and concerns. Although it is near impossible to detail almost four hours of the deep and contemplative conversation, here are just a few of the highlights:

School Board President Ron Schulhof explained that we are not the only school district in our area to consider going over the tax cap and, in fact, a few districts have already announced that their proposed budgets will exceed the state’s tax cap.

Board members offered their thoughts:

Jim Dugan hopes that voters will focus on the needs of our students here in Scarsdale and not a political tax cap mandated by Albany, he also recognizes that the Board acts as stewards of the resident’s tax dollars and suggests we get as close to the tax cap as possible.

Colleen Brown agreed with Dugan and would prefer our budget to be closer to the tax cap but she would also like to better understand the cuts being proposed, and what the impact of those cuts would be.

Suzie Hahn said she hopes to remember that when we are talking dollars and cents, that we remain student focused.

Robert Klein expressed his concern about the costs associated with FTEs and questioned whether or not we could sustain new hires. He also thinks it is important for the community to understand what is at stake if the budget isn’t passed and is concerned about the possibility of an austerity budget.

Amber Yusuf shared her concern with not hiring a Special Education Administrator, a pressing need that she explained was deferred from last year’s budget. She also expressed her worry of potentially cutting the funds for “Varsity B” teams at the high school citing the direct impact this would have on our student’s physical, social, and emotional well-being.

Jessica Resnick-Ault shares Yusuf’s concerns and adds that she fears that eliminating these teams would have an inequitable impact on girl’s sports.

During the Public Comment portion of the business meeting, Robert Berg spoke via Zoom and warned that the last time the District proposed a budget that exceeded the tax cap, it was overwhelmingly rejected by the community. Berg also felt that our district administrators suffered consequences for not being more fiscally conservative.

Art Rublin also spoke via Zoom and first expressed his appreciation for the important work that everyone is doing in regard to the budget planning process. He then made clear that before 2011, there was no such thing as a state-mandated tax cap. Rublin further explained that the tax cap was first instituted as a political move by Andrew Cuomo and not a move made with educational best practices in mind. He urged residents to consider what is best for our community and posed the question, “Do we want control over our school district and the education of our children, or do we want to be a cog in the Albany system?” He recognizes that the District needs to be fiscally responsible but he doesn’t want an arbitrary number given by the state to dictate the decisions we make for our children. Lastly, Rubin feels that the 2013 budget was first voted down by residents in part because it proposed to fund the building of a new fitness center at the high school, something that some saw as unnecessary and controversial.

This is only a small glimpse of the thoughtful questions, ideas, and concerns communicated during the March 4th meeting. You can watch the meeting in its entirety here: With so much at stake, Board members urge our community to tune into the next Budget Study Session on Monday March 11th.

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