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Peekskill Schools Adopt $74.3M Budget, 5.4% Tax Hike; 10 Staffers to Be Laid Off

STAR exemptions will cut taxes for some residents; spending plan complies with tax levy cap.

The Peekskill Board of Education has adopted a $74,325,932 budget for the 2012-13 school year, which begins July 1, with a projected tax rate increase of 5.43 percent.

The budget, adopted Tuesday night, complies with the new 2 percent state cap on the increase in the school district’s tax levy although, because of exempted expenses, the levy will actually increase 3.3 percent. Please click here for an explanation of the tax levy cap and how it is calculated.

The projected tax rate is $636.71 per $1,000 of assessed property value. A home assessed at $10,000, the district average, would pay $6,367 in taxes next year. The current tax rate is $603.94 per $1,000 of assessed value. The tax rate and the tax on a particular property are determined by the fluctuating numbers of the assessment process and will not be finalized until specific information is received from city officials after the May 15 vote on the budget and school board candidates.

Taxes will drop for homeowners benefiting from the STAR tax relief program. The basic exemption is increasing from $3,050 this year to $3,480, which will cut next year’s tax bills 1 percent, while the enhanced exemption is increasing from $5,790 this year to $7,210, which will cut next year’s tax bills 30 percent. New York State reimburses the district for STAR exemptions.

“Huge savings” are possible through STAR, board member Douglas Glickert emphasized. He and his colleagues encouraged residents to apply for exemptions through the city assessor’s office. Applications are due by May 1.

The budget for the current school year, which ends June 30, is $72,013,090. The new budget is $2,312,842 higher, an increase of 3.2 percent.

District officials and board members toiled in recent weeks to close a gap between projected 2012-13 revenue and expenses that originally exceeded $3 million. While spending cuts were made in many areas, the bulk of the shortfall was covered by layoffs and reserve funds.

Staff cuts, projected as high as 23 positions, eventually totaled 16–saving $1.3 million–and were made through a combination of retirements (with retirees replaced by lower-paid newcomers or not replaced), open positions not filled and layoffs. The layoffs include an assistant principal, two guidance counselors, a librarian, a music teacher, a Spanish teacher, a clerk, a custodian and two part-time security people.

While acknowledging the challenges involved in balancing the budget, board members balked at laying off an assistant principal and a librarian, citing concerns about leadership and literacy issues. Superintendent of Schools James Willis said he would rework the budget allocations to retain the two positions.

Board members acknowledged the difficulty of crafting a budget in “these challenging times” and commended the work of the administration.

“We all support it [the budget], we just don’t like it,” board member Tuesday McDonald said. “We don’t have the money. It’s very frustrating.”

In a related matter, hopes for additional disciplinary personnel were dashed by budget limitations.

“We must support discipline but we must do so with existing staff,” Willis said, citing hallway sweeps of tardy students as an example.

“We must change the culture in the classroom,” board President Joseph Urbanowicz said. “Disruption is not acceptable.”

Expanding on board member Marcela Bobe’s statement that “Teachers want support on discipline,” Glickert suggested a survey of all teachers regarding what forms that support might take.

For details of the budget computations please click here, then click “view the agenda,” then click on the attachments for items F1 and M6.

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