Sunday, Apr 14th

PTC Encourages Community to Vote YES on the Proposed 2024-25 School Budget

ScarsdaleHighSchool(The following statement on the proposed budget for Scarsdale Schools, 2024-25 was submitted by the PT Council Executive and Budget Study Committees)

The Scarsdale Parent-Teacher Council Executive Committee (the “PTC EC”) and Budget Study Chairs (“Budget Study”) thank the District Administration (the “Administration”) and Board of Education (the “BOE”) for their work thus far on the Proposed Budget for 2024-25 (the “Budget”). The PTC EC and Budget Study generally support the Proposed Scarsdale Schools’ Budget 2024-25 (March 11 version). We would like to emphasize, however, that certain reductions and cuts made during the budget-planning process to arrive at the current Budget may affect levels of student experience and support, and will defer aspects related to important initiatives, such as Safety and Security and the High School Auditorium. The PTC EC and Budget Study would like to highlight that the March 4 version includes items that more fully support the ongoing needs of our District as well as better maintain the current level of student experience. For the community, please note that the tax impact of adopting the March 4 version is an increase of approximately $126 per median assessed home in Scarsdale over the majority-BOE endorsed March 11 version. The PTC EC and Budget Study further note that, as per the Administration, implementing the additional cuts necessary to achieve a Budget below the Tax Cap would have significant negative impacts on the current level of student support and quality of experience. We encourage the community to support a budget that provides sufficient resources for our schools and ask that all eligible voters VOTE YES on the presented Budget on May 21, 2024 at Scarsdale Middle School.

The PTC EC and Budget Study strongly support the norms of small elementary class size, robust student support at all levels, differentiated teaching and learning, and the development of the whole child. We support and encourage initiatives related to student mental health, wellness, and belonging; we strongly encourage ongoing professional development and work with the school community to further these significant and essential aspects of the student experience. The PTC EC and Budget Study endorse a continued commitment to the development of innovative, best-in-class curriculum practices. We further encourage the Administration to provide additional history, context, and rationale for curricular changes and enhancements in order to bring the community along in its process. We would like to highlight the need to benchmark best-in-class curriculum practices with other comparable schools in order for the community to understand the types of curricular offerings at cutting-edge NYS public schools, as well as to identify metrics by which the success of new programs will be evaluated.

Process

The PTC EC and Budget Study strongly encourage the BOE and Administration to articulate and elaborate on the rationale and framework behind the decisions made. We acknowledge the external pressures on budget-planning this year, which include: high inflation, potential loss of state aid, several years of tight budgeting, a state-mandated tax cap, and the inability to use reserves to close the gap next year. We further acknowledge the challenges facing the BOE as it seeks to maintain the excellence of our schools while being mindful of the financial strain that increased taxes may place on residents. The PTC EC and Budget Study continue to advocate for proactive outreach on the part of the BOE to the community and suggest the BOE create opportunities to hear from the public on our shared values and hopes for the Scarsdale Schools. Additionally, we request that the Administration share the long-term and short-term strategic plan, belonging survey results, special education plan five years out, a capital projects’ plan and financial plan. PTC acknowledges that the strategic plan is in process, the belonging survey has been completed and results are being coalesced, and that the Assistant Superintendent for Business plans to organize a financial forecast sometime in the Fall of 2024. As PTC seeks to encourage voter participation and support for the Budget, we emphasize that the community would benefit from understanding the nuances of the BOE and Administration’s budget-planning process.

Facilities’ Planning

As District Facilities and Buildings continue to age, the PTC EC and Budget Study would like to emphasize the importance of addressing the specific physical spaces at each school that need updating or renovation. One such area is outdoor playgrounds at some of the elementary schools, which need to be maintained and updated both for safety and to meet changing student needs. Another aspect of facilities’ work that the PTC EC would like to emphasize is attention to increased air cooling spaces in the schools. In addition, PTC strongly encourages continued consideration of planning, resources, and advocacy in order to address flood mitigation at the schools. We appreciate that the high school auditorium (a highly used performance, community event, and classroom space) project was included in the Bond last spring, and we look forward to updates on the progress of the work. We do realize that due to budgetary constraints, the District cannot tackle all capital improvement projects at the seven schools simultaneously. The PTC EC would like to emphasize the importance of a comprehensive timeline to understand what the District has identified as priorities, when it is anticipated the items will be addressed, and how they will be prioritized and financed.

The Proposed Budget and Overview

The March 11 Proposed Budget, which was endorsed by the majority of the BOE, totals $184,822,125 for a budget-to-budget difference of $7,047,938 and 3.96%. The Projected Increase in Tax Levy is 4.39% and the Projected Tax Levy Limit is 3.63% putting this Budget at $1,231,466 above the NYS Tax Cap. The estimated tax impact in dollar amount for a median assessed home in Scarsdale is approximately $1,045 with a decrease in the dollar amount for a median assessed home in Mamaroneck at approximately ($2,372).

The PTC EC and Budget Study note, as per discussion during the Budget Study sessions, that our reserves have been declining, and we ask that the BOE and Administration maintain safe reserve levels in order to preserve the integrity of the overall economic health of the District. Regarding District Reserves, the PTC notes, as per the Administration, that “Reserves and Fund Balance provide the District with financial stability, cash flow/liquidity, and demonstrate general fiscal health.” In addition, according to Andrew Lennon, declining reserves have “the potential to negatively impact a district’s credit rating, thereby increasing borrowing costs.”

The Budget exceeds the Tax Cap and thus requires a supermajority YES vote (60% of those who vote) to approve the Budget. If the first budget vote fails, and the BOE revisits the Budget to make further reductions, the PTC EC and Budget Study are deeply concerned that those cuts will be felt districtwide. Furthermore, if the budget vote fails a second time, our District will then have a Contingency Budget, which will require an additional $5.9 million in cuts below the Tax Cap, which would be $7.1 million in cuts from the current March 11 version of the Budget. The PTC EC and Budget Study strongly support a Budget that will provide sufficient resources for our schools and encourage all eligible voters to VOTE YES for the presented Budget on May 21st. The PT Council Executive Committee, in partnership with our Budget Study Chairs, will continue to engage in budget advocacy and disseminating voter information related to the May 21 community budget vote.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

The PT Council Executive Committee and Budget Study Chairs

Leah Dembitzer, PTC President
Meryl Satler, PTC President Elect
Jeanette Rosen, PTC Secretary
Rokaya Hassaballa, PTC Treasurer
Beth Cukier, SHS PTA President
Tina Lin, SMS PTA President
Ammr Vandal, Edgewood PTA Co-President
Jeanine Cole, Edgewood PTA Co-President
Jeannie Adashek, Fox Meadow PTA Co-President
Leena Gyftopoulos, Fox Meadow PTA Co-President
Jennifer Galeon, Greenacres PTA President
Deborah Bhatt, Heathcote PTA President
Erica German, Quaker Ridge PTA President
Irena Spiegel-Turner, PTC Budget Study Co-Chair
Ranjana Saini-Chandarana, PTC Budget Study Co-Chair

**You may read the full statement (with footnotes) here.**

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