Wednesday, Sep 28th

District Presents First Pass at Proposed 2021-22 School Budget

BudgetOverviewHopeful that the 2021-22 school year will return to normal, the Scarsdale Schools held their first budget study session for the proposed 2021-22 school budget on Monday, February 8, 2021 via Zoom. Though the budget assumes kids will be back in school, the district is also including contingency funds for two remote teachers and technology and PPE in case COVID continues to affect the educational program.

During the meeting, Assistant Superintendent Stuart Mattey reviewed the 2021-2022 draft budget, budget drivers, debt service costs, transportation expenses, employee benefit costs, and athletic expenditures.

This preliminary budget calls for a 2.54% budget increase over 2020-21, for a budget of $166,827,755. This would mean a 2.15% increase in the tax levy, translating to a 1.93% increase for Scarsdale residents and a 6.28% increase for those in the Mamaroneck strip.

Mattey listed outlined what this budget will fund:

• Maintaining high-quality teaching and learning consistent with the Strategic Plan
• Advancing in-district instructional opportunities for students with disabilities
• Continuing a comprehensive approach to Safety, Security and Emergency Management
• Elevating district cleaning protocols in all elementary schools
• Improving and upgrading facilities

The proposal includes additional staffing including:

1 full time special education co-teacher for elementary school
1 full-time special education teacher for the Learning Resource Center at the high school
1 .4 speech teacher for the high school
1 .2 secretarial position for the middle school Psychologist
5 full time cleaners, one for each of the elementary schools.

Though no one knows at this point if remote learning will still be necessary, this draft budget includes $800,000 in funds from the fund balance to pay for 2 full time remote teachers, $330,000 for unanticipated non-recurring costs associated with COVID 19 such as expenses for technology, PPE or other equipment along with $250,000 to fund a summer enrichment program for elementary school students.

COVID contingencyThough the district plans to be back in school in September, in case some hybrid or remote instruction is required, the district has put some contingency funds in the proposed 2021-22 school budget.

Summer Enrichment Program: Administrators are currently trying to gauge community interest in the enrichment program as they consider what the next steps should be. The goal of the program will be to enrich students’ literacy and mathematics development, and it will be open to all students who completed kindergarten through fifth grade. It will be staffed by Scarsdale teachers. Students who do not attend will not miss essential content, as the program will feature project-based learning activities that will engage students with skills and concepts they have already learned. They discussed the possibility of coordinating the program with the summer camp offered by the Village so that students could attend both the enrichment program and the Rec Day Camp.

Because the development of the program is based on community interest, Board member Ron Schulhof asked what the minimum number of students would be necessary for the program to run. Dr. Edgar McIntosh, the Assistant Superintendent for Instruction, stated that although exact figures have yet to be determined, the administration estimates that around 15% of students will be interested in the Enrichment Program and that this figure will make the project feasible.

Next, the Board reviewed the primary budget drivers for the proposed 2021-2022 budget.

The total impact of these changes is $3.816 million and includes:
• Contractual salary increases for all employees - $2.1677 million
• The District’s self-funded medical insurance budget increase due to plan experience and employee contributions - $922,000
• Covid-19 contingency funded from prior year surplus - $800,000
• Transfer to school lunch fund to cover losses - $175,000
• Contractual increases and improvements to security - $169,000
• Plan operation and maintenance for HVAC and electrical maintenance and snow removal equipment - $161,000
• Debt service - $151,000
• Transfer to Capital Fund ($379,000)
• Tax Certiorari decrease ($350,000)

Board member Amber Yusef later asked for details about increased security costs and Mattey said the District plans to update its process for an automated lockdown by integrating all of its systems with the process for alerting the police and the fire departments of the situation.

Fund Balance: As of June 30, 2020, the district fund balance was $26,664,738 which is projected to decrease to $23,035,349 by June 30, 2021. The unassigned fund balance will drop to $4,666,306 which is 2.8% of the draft budget. Customarily, the district retains 4% in the unassigned fund balance for unanticipated expenses.

Next, the Board reviewed several individual pieces of the budget, including transportation, debt service and lease purchases, employee benefits, and interscholastic athletics.

Transportation expenses account for approximately 3% of the Draft Budget. In the 2020-2021 budget, the actual cost was $4.173 million, and this year’s budget projects the cost at $4.544 million. This accounts for the continuation of all current policies, 63 bus drivers, and the planned purchase of 1 large bus, 2 mini-busses, and 1 van. This figure also accounts for contractual salary increases.

Debt Service and Lease Purchasing accounts for 6% of the budget. In 2020-2021, the actual cost for this expense was $7.281 million, and the proposed cost in this budget is a 2% increase, resulting in a $7.491 million expense. This includes a continuation of the District’s technology lease purchasing plans, computer lease payments, and copier replacement plans.

Employee Benefits comprises 22% of the proposed budget. This expense was $36.805 million in the 2020-2021 fiscal year, and it is projected to increase to $37.241 million for the 2021-2022 year. This includes employee insurance costs, New York State retirement system costs, and other insurance expenses.

On a percentage basis, one of the largest increases in the proposed budget is for athletics, which totaled $1.858 million for 2020-21, and is projected to go up to $2.171 million for 2021-22. This represents a budget-to-budget increase of 9.42% to fund supplies, uniforms, sports entry fees, certification expenses, equipment, and equipment reconditioning.

The primary reason for the increase is to fund athletic training supervision and coaching. Director of Physical Education, Health & Athletics, Ray Pappalardi explained that it has become a standard best-practice to have an athletic trainer on standby to help with any potential injuries during events. The district currently has one full-time athletic trainer, and there were gaps in coverage during sports practices and competitions. For example, Mr. Pappalardi stated that oftentimes during football season, one athletic trainer must be with the team at an away game and it would benefit the District to have an additional trainer on staff to circle around to home team fields. In addition to football, other higher-risk teams would benefit from an offsite trainer during events and competitions.

Following the presentation, the Board posed questions about the STAR Rebate Program which may be changed by the state along with the decrease in the unassigned fund balance which could pose risks down the line. They asked for the cost for additional furniture and equipment to bring third through fifth graders back to school were in the budget and learned that this expense has not been planned for as yet. These funds will have to come out of the fund balance, which will decrease. However, these expenses may be offset by state aid which may come in but is not counted in this proposed budget.

The next budget meeting will be held on March 1 and will include a Draft Budget plan update and department budget presentations. The third budget meeting will be held on March 8 and the Budget Forum and Review will take place on March 22. Finally, the Board of Education will adopt the budget on April 12 and the final vote will take place on May 18.

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