SCARDALE, N.Y. Two recent forums designed to help educate the public about Scarsdale schools and to get feedback and input about the community's priorities did not yield any surprises, according to two top school officials.
"Over the past few years, we have heard statements about what community members value concerns over class size depending on enrollment shifts and support for programs that are not always seen as central to core program," said Jill Spieler, president of the board of education. "On the other hand, we also heard comments about the need to contain costs, and to consider using some reserves to offset costs."
Most of those who attended the forums voiced support for a budget that would maintain Scarsdale's level of education even if it exceeds the state's new 2 percent tax levy cap. It is a message that has remained consistent over recent years, said Michael McGill, superintendent of Scarsdale Public Schools.
"To me, the first thing that's noteworthy about the forums is the consistency of what we hear, year to year," McGill said. "Parents, in particular, support the education their children are receiving and don't want to sacrifice its quality. Different groups come to support different parts of the program that may seem threatened, but the basic theme is that people in Scarsdale want quality teaching, favorable class size, a broad and rich program of academics, arts, athletics and other extra-curriculars, learning that's enhanced by technology and facilities that are safe, sound and up-to-date."
McGill said, however, he is aware that those who attend the forums often represent just one point of view.
"The forums tend not to draw as many people who are critical of the budget, but we're certainly aware of sentiment that 'there must be fluff' that could be cut to comply with the tax cap," he said.
McGill acknowledged that Scarsdale is "a sophisticated community. The budget process, he said, is about core community values.
"To what degree do residents value the kind of quality they've had in the past, as well enhancements that keep it as relevant and effective in the future? To what degree do they believe that they can have the same or better for minimally more money or for even less?
McGill said residents and school officials recognize that times are tough and that the schools have to respond to the economic situation. But, he said, at the same time, some people have moved to the area specifically for the quality of schools, understanding the tax burden that it can bring. The budget process is the most visible way in which the community works out its solution to these dilemmas.
Spieler praised those who attended the forums, and urged everyone in the community to become involved in the process over the coming weeks as the budget begins to come together. The budget study sessions should be finished Feb. 6 and then start evaluating the administrations budget proposal, she said.
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