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Letter: Scarsdale Procedure Committee Chair Supports School Budget

SCARSDALE, N.Y. - The Scarsdale Daily Voice accepts signed, original letters to the editor. We reserve the right to edit submissions, but we respectfully ask that you keep your correspondence under 500 words. Please send letters to scarsdale@dailyvoice.com .

To the Editor:

After months of study and open hearings, the board of education is proposing a capital and expense budget that is made up of many many individual items designed to meet the values and educational needs of our community. One such individual item, the proposal to add about $325,000 to the capital budget for a new wellness center, has been the subject of several letters about the forthcoming vote on the school budget, which this year requires a 60 percent vote to pass because the proposed budget exceeds the state tax cap by 0.55 percent.

In my view, a new wellness center is consistent with our village's values and needs because it will be vital to instilling in our students lifelong habits of health, knowledge and fitness. But, even if one disagrees with my opinion, don't let disagreement over one $325,000 item defeat a $145 million budget. Especially because, with or without the new wellness center, the budget would still exceed the tax cap.

Capital expenses like the wellness center are not counted toward the cap.

So why is the cap exceeded? Because, despite the Board's consistent efforts to find economies wherever they can, including keeping growth for programs and services in our seven schools to only 0.57 percent increase, they cannot control state-mandated increases in the retirement systems that amount to almost 2 percent of the new budget and, unlike the capital budget, count directly against the tax cap. So, in the real world, the wellness center argument is a red herring.

On the merits, a vote of yes on May 21 is vital for our community.

1. Like me, many readers of this letter fall into the category of "empty nesters," where the focus of your lives no longer revolves around what is being built in the high school, or what courses are being offered, or when holidays fall in the Scarsdale School calendar. But there's one issue that should resonate with all of you: Scarsdale is known nationally for its schools, it has always been extremely attractive to live here because of its schools, and our property values have been consistently high over the years because of its schools.

2. The district’s school budget growth of 2.47 percent is the third lowest in 30 years.  As mentioned above, the largest portion of this growth – 1.9 percent --  is due to state-mandated increases in the retirement systems that we have no control over.

3. Funding for education program improvements, while reduced in this budget, keep our curriculum at the forefront of education practices and focused on innovation for the future – all of which are well-regarded worldwide. Meantime, the district and board will continue to monitor the student/teacher ratios to maintain the low class sizes that are so important for student success.

So, vote yes on May 21 from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the Middle School. Ask others, including your out-of-home children, still registered to vote in New York, to vote yes. And hold your head high with Scarsdale pride when we pass this budget.

David Brodsky, chair, Scarsdale Procedure Committee

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