SCARSDALE, N.Y. – The Scarsdale Board of Education unveiled a proposed $141.6 million budget for the 2012-2013 school year Monday night to about two dozen people. The budget falls under the state tax levy cap by $123,845 and calls for a tax rate of $872.99, or a 3.81 percent tax increase. Mamaroneck residents in the Scarsdale School District would see a 2.64 percent increase to a rate of $887.22.
The 2011-2012 budget was $138.4 million and the actual tax levy increase of 2.89 percent includes expenses that are excluded for the cap calculation, including some capital expenditures, pension increases and legal expenses.
The budget, introduced by board of education President Jill Spieler, takes advantage of a $3.757 million surplus from last year’s budget and a reduction of 3.7 full-time equivalent positions due to enrollment. It also reflects spending of $500,000 of the growing fund balance, part of the board's planned reduction that will be spread of several years.
The budget maintains elementary class sizes, Spieler said, and contains no cuts of professional staff or courses at the middle or high school levels. It also includes $345,000 more than the administration's original budget proposal for plant improvements and $100,000 for a new initiative called the Center for Innovation.
"This is a proposed budget," Spieler said. "We continue to invite community feedback to guide us to the plan we adopt in April."
The budget was immediately attacked by the Vivienne Braun of the Scarsdale High School PTA.
Braun, as she has in the past, expressed concern over class sizes at the high school, saying that the current budget leaves little room for adding sections if some classes attract more students than predicted.
"If we put the statistics aside," she said, "the fact remains that eight academic positions have been cut from the high school while enrollment is growing. If we estimate that each of those teachers would have had a class load of approximately four sections while the number of students remained stable, then what happened to those 30-plus sections? ... The school has all of the predictive tools necessary to anticipate student movement and to figure out staffing needs. Our concern is how are we going to pay for a last-minute hire? How are we going to ensure that we hire the best qualified high school certified teacher that we can when we need to?"
Art Rublin and James Dugan of Coalition for Scarsdale Schools both said the budget was not sufficient to set the district on the right course for the future. Rublin passed out a spreadsheet he said was an analysis of what drawing down the surplus and fund balance could mean in the future, saying that, as early as 2013-2014, the district could find itself with a $2.4 million revenue deficit. He urged the board to restore the balances to what Superintendent Michael McGill proposed in his original budget. Dugan agreed and suggested that the board might be making a mistake by coming in under the cap this year.
"This budget could make it harder to propose a budget that would exceed the cap in the future, if it is necessary," he said. He added, while the board insists its intent was not to come in under the cap, but to propose a budget that maintained the quality of education and was fiscally responsible, the perception could be that the true intent was to get under the cap. "That might discourage young families from moving here," and that could have an effect on the increasing tax base, he said.
Spieler said the board would study the information presented by the speakers and consider any changes before its next meeting March 19.
The board will present its final budget April 16.
Scarsdale School District residents will go to the polls May 15 to vote on the budget. If the final budget comes in under the cap, as expected, passage will require a simple majority vote. A tax levy cap override would require 60 percent approval by voters.