With the annual school budget vote a little more than five months away, Peekskill school officials are shifting gears for another tough budget crafting process.
Gregory Sullivan, assistant superintendent for business and administrative services at Peekskill schools, asked the school board how it wanted to proceed with this year’s budget discussions during Tuesday’s board meeting.
School budget referendums are scheduled to take place in New York state on May 21, 2013. The Peekskill school board is scheduled to adopt a budget for a public vote on April 16.
“I’m asking the board’s direction and input,” Sullivan said. “How would you like to see the budget put together?—I’m not asking for a decision tonight, but we’re going to be kicking off pretty soon.”
Joseph Urbanowicz, president of the school board, said the board has discussed evaluating all of its program to see what’s cost effective.
“Just because we’ve always done it, doesn’t mean we need to do it,” Urbanowicz said. “We need some way of gauging what programs are effective and what’s the cost per program and what’s the benefit...that’s what we promised the community. That we would take a very close look at what we’re doing and make sure, one, we’re doing it as effectively as we can and as efficiently as we can.”
Urbanowicz said he wanted administrators to present that information to the board.
Schools Superintendent Jim Willis suggested that the district’s education planning committee may be a good option to use for collecting that information.
School board Member Lisbeth Block believes the district needs to do a good job of informing residents about the state property tax cap.
“I think it’s really important that we really communicate to the community what the 2 percent [tax cap] represents,” Block said. “When we went to Rochester, we were told that the STAR exemption will be frozen at 2 percent. That will definitely impact people’s actual tax bill. They’ll see that and say ‘Woah, my tax bill’, when there really hasn’t been a huge increase in STAR exemptions.”
School board Member Douglas Glick said he’s received a lot of questions from the community asking why the district can go back to community schools. He said he’d like to see a study on that as part of this year’s budget analysis.
“I think anything we can do to cut expenses down so we can save the things that are valuable to us and important to our students and, also, try to reduce as many costs as we can to the benefit of our taxpayers—we’ve got to look at everything,” Glick said.
Willis said an analysis was done three years ago on community schools and that he can go over the study again during the budget process.
Willis said he also wanted to focus on ways to bring more revenue to the school district.
“There’s a $700,000 gap that we need to make up for the next three years and I know we talk about cuts, but I’d like to see the revenues to close that gap as opposed to cutting,” Willis said. “We’re trying to work on some things to make that happen.”
Willis said the district could be looking at an increase of $1.1 million to employer contributions to the teacher retirement system, according to early estimates.
The district budget calendar can be seen here.