Sunday, Apr 14th

Superintendent and School Board Request Community Feedback on Proposed School Budget

BoardPortrait22 23(The following letter was written by Scarsdale School Superintendent Drew Patrick, School Board President Ron Schulhof and School Board Vice President Suzie Hahn.)

Dear Scarsdale Community,

We are seeking your feedback on the proposed budget for the 2024-2025 school year. We hope you will take this opportunity to review the proposed budget, which was presented during the March 11th Budget Study Session #3 and is outlined on slide 23. This year’s budget was especially challenging, given the desire to continue and expand our educational programming while managing many fiscal headwinds. We believe the proposed budget finds the appropriate balance of delivering the educational programs and services that our students deserve and that our community expects while being responsive to the fiscal realities that many school districts are facing. The proposed budget reflects an increase of 3.96% over the current year budget, and a tax levy increase of 4.39%.

On March 25th, the Board will hold a Budget Forum where the administration will review the budget process and proposed budget, the community will be invited to share their feedback, and the Board will discuss any potential budget updates in response to community feedback. The Board is then expected to vote on April 8th on the final budget to present to the community during the May 21st public budget vote.

Budget Accomplishments
As it stands, the current proposed budget continues the programs and services that we think our students deserve and that our community expects. We will continue to deliver the exceptional level of instruction provided through small class sizes at the elementary level, the house and team structure at the middle school, and vibrant programs of study at the high school. Mental health and special education staffing and resources put in place over the last several years will be continued. While the proposed reductions from the administration’s original budget will mean we have to postpone the start of some new classes and programs to the future, our students will continue to receive the highest level of education throughout their K-12 experience.

What is Driving the Budget Increases?
As with many other organizations and school districts, we are facing a number of large cost increases due to inflation, health care, and other non-discretionary expenses. The major drivers of the year to year increase in expenses are contractual salaries and wages, health and other employee benefits, retirement contributions, social security, and contractual services including education services providers and maintenance and transportation contracts. We have also increased our headcount over the past years in response to the increasing numbers and needs of students in special education, which are mandated services. Put simply, both the growth in the programs serving students and increases in the cost of goods and services have collectively created the pressure we are now experiencing.

Changes from the Administration’s Initial Budget Proposal
Initially, the administration proposed a preliminary budget on February 5 reflecting a 5.08% year to year budget increase and tax levy increase of 5.6% to fully deliver their program goals. Over the past many weeks, the administration has been responsive to the Board’s requests to seek expenditure reductions from that proposal. While the Board fully supported the educational goals in the budget, the Board believed it was prudent to consider expense reductions. The current proposal has reduced expenditures by $2 million through two tranches of reductions: (a) The first tranche of approximately $1M in reductions as discussed during the March 4th meeting, and the second tranche of approximately another $1M in reductions discussed at the March 11th meeting. It is important to note that the second tranche of reductions does impact the administration’s original list of budget goals for next year, including the deferrals of a new Financial Literacy class and an advanced math class at the high school and reducing expenditures on new safety & security items.

Community Feedback
We are now at a critically important point in the budget development process. We urge you to review the budget materials linked herein and found on our website or watch the most recent budget presentation and discussion from March 11th, and share your feedback on the proposed budget between now and Monday, March 25, 2024. You may also wish to share your input directly with us at the Budget Forum at 6:30 PM March 25th. The full budget book is also now available. Some questions you may wish to consider:

Do you have feedback about the second tranche of reductions that impact some of the original budget goals?

Are there additional items you would have liked the administration and Board to consider, either adding or removing from this year or future year budgets?

How do you feel about the level of budget and tax increase being proposed?

We encourage you to stay engaged with the conversation, and look forward to your feedback. The Board of Education and Superintendent can be emailed at boardofed@scarsdaleschools.org.

Public Vote on the Budget
As you may know, approximately 10 years ago New York State instituted a new threshold to local school district budgets which requires a 60% voter approval to approve a school budget, rather than a simple majority vote. This threshold, often referred to as the "tax cap," is the lower of 2% or inflation, adjusted for various other local factors such as capital projects. This year the threshold for Scarsdale Schools is 3.63%. Since the proposed budget results in a 4.39% tax increase, it will require a 60% approval this year to pass. It is our view that the proposed budget is in the best interest of our students and that further reductions, including the elimination of additional expenditures to bring the budget within the “tax cap,” would significantly impact the ability of the Scarsdale Schools to meet our academic goals and priorities. Some examples of further cuts to the budget would include eliminating 3-4 teaching positions and canceling all Varsity and Junior Varsity “B” teams. A full list of potential reductions needed to meet the “tax cap” is available on slides 31-34 in the March 11th presentation.

Ultimately, each School District retains local control in determining the appropriate budget to deliver the educational programming and experience desired by the community. It is our belief that the proposed budget balances the educational expectations of our students and community while respecting our fiscal responsibilities.

Sincerely,

Ron Schulhof, Board of Education President
Suzie Hahn, Board of Education Vice President
Dr. Drew Patrick, Superintendent

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