SCARSDALE, N.Y. Scarsdale Public Schools Assistant Superintendent Linda Purvis presented a picture of the potential ramifications of the state's new 2 percent tax cap at Monday night's school board meeting at Heathcote Elementary School. Her message: without a vote to override the cap, Scarsdale schools will face massive cuts.
"It's going to be a tough situation for school districts around the state," she said after her presentation. She said she does not believe Scarsdale will allow the budget to be cut dramatically, but she worries about other communities and the future of education in New York in general.
Earlier in the evening, Superintendent Michael McGill told a group of Heathcote parents he also fears for the state's schools. "My guess is many of New York's school districts will be dismantled," he said, referring to their programs. "The people of Scarsdale are not going to want their schools to be dismantled."
Purvis opened her presentation by showing how the school board has kept a lid on spending since 2008, when the economy hit the skids. She said the budget increases were just over 2 percent a year. But the cap is not about school budget increases, it is a levy cap, with a complicated formula that does not account for several state mandates, she said.
The figures were familiar to those who have seen similar, but less formal, presentations over the past month. There are no exemptions for mandated contributions to either professional or non-professional employee retirement systems, which is expected to grow 14 percent next year. Contracts with teachers and other professionals will have to be renegotiated in the future, Purvis said, but, for now, the only way to pay for them and stay within the cap is to "cut, cut, cut."
The 2011-2012 budget was approximately $123 million. To keep it the same next year, but with less available surplus funding, it will cost $134 million. The district said the tax levy needed to fund that budget would be $11 million. But, Purvis said, the maximum allowed under the cap would be $2.5 million, and $8.5 million difference.
If the district cut all extra-curricular activities (sports, theater, clubs, etc.), all community services (teen center, outreach programs, etc.), and non-essential maintenance, that would account for just $2.5 million. Then the personnel cuts would start, the school district said, including some 42 professional staff.
In other business, the board announced Tuesday it will hold a special meeting Monday, Nov. 28, in the conference room in the board offices. On the agenda:
At 6:30 p.m. the Board will conduct its annual visit with the principal of Scarsdale Middle School.
At 7:15 p.m. the Board will conduct its annual visit with the principal of Greenacres Elementary School.
At 8:00 p.m. the Board is expected to enter executive session to discuss attorney-client communications in the Board
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