Pleasantville Schools' Budget Draft Exceeds Tax Cap

The district projects the elimination of 10 aides and four assistants in 2013-14.

Pension increases alone would bring the Pleasantville Union Free School District above its maximum allowable tax levy increase—or "tax cap"—in 2013-14, officials shared on February 12.

"In our preliminary budget, we are over the cap," Board of Education President Lois Winkler stated during a work session following the regular meeting.

Estimates shared by Assistant Superintendent for Business David Quattrocchi during a preliminary budget presentation showed the district's Teacher Retirement System (TRS) and Employee Retirement System (ERS) could jump $922,405 next year.

Quattrocchi stressed the budget figures shared last Tuesday are "very preliminary" as he and Superintendent Mary Fox-Alter walked through the $46,780,362 total. That amount represents a 3.27 percent increase over for 2012-13.

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In addition to significant anticipated increase in pension spending, school officials are projecting a $444,700 increase in contributions to health benefits next year. These two areas represent 62 percent and 30 percent of anticipated increased allocations, respectively.

Therefore, "93 percent of the increase associated with the preliminary budget is attributable to benefits," Quattrocchi noted.

Meanwhile, the district anticipates eliminating four teaching assistants and 10 teacher aides next year, a move "created by efficiencies in scheduling and also program adjustments," he said.

"To date, this is what we estimate we will be able to save at this time," Quattrocchi stated.

With four fewer certified instructional staffers, the districtwide total would drop to 195.3 from 199.3. Also this year, the teachers' contract expires.

According to the lengthy calculations needed to determine the district's maximum allowable tax levy for the coming year, Pleasantville can up the levy up to $883,019 next year, a 2.68 percent increase.

Last year's budget did not breach the cap, which was symbolically signed into law by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in Pleasantville in June of 2011.

Under the law, school districts can propose budgets that carry a tax rate increase of more than 2 percent only if 60 percent of voters agree to override the law.

During a work session following the board's regular meeting Tuesday, board members asked administrators to provide additional information as budget discussions are set to continue over the coming weeks.

Bedford Road School Principal Peggy Galotti, for example, shared, "I believe as of today we have 92 letters of intent [for kindergarten]."

Board members asked for enrollment and class size number trends for the district as well.

Vice President Shane McGaffey also requested administrators note "what's state mandated and what's not."

"I think that's a very useful thing," he said.

Trustee Louis Conte also inquired about what a zero percent tax levy increase would look like—something "we have to be OK with" if voters don't override the tax cap.

"This way we can see the different scenarios and lay out the different options," he explained.

Board members also pushed for more community involvement in the budget process.

Resident Tom Murphy, who chaired the BRS planning and advisory committee last year, commented Tuesday, "I find it upsetting that getting the community involved is always focused a few months before the budget is due."

Winkler said the district formed a finance committee based on the suggestions of the PACs.

"Their charge is to look at long term budget planning," she noted. "We are expecting a report from them within the next month."

Sarah Studley February 20, 2013 at 03:21 PM
Some important dates coming up: Final budget presentation — April 2 Board's adoption of the budget — April 16 Budget hearing — May 7 Budget vote — May 21
john apicelli February 20, 2013 at 05:27 PM
Time for the board to do some HARD work...I'll be pushing for a NO vote if they present an override vote to the people....John Apicelli


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