The Rye Neck School district has proposed to cut 6.8 staff positions—the majority of which are kindergarten teaching assistants—in their efforts to stay within the two percent tax cap in this year’s budget. The $36.7 million 2012-13 proposed budget is an approximately $816K increase over last year— a 2.28 percent increase over the $35.8 budget in 2011-12— with a 2.17 percent increase in the tax levy over last year.
Bearing in mind that going over the allowable tax levy amount would require voter approval by a 60 percent supermajority, the district was conservative in their approach to the budgetary process for fear that a zero contingency rate would cause an additional $707,645 in cuts to be made should the vote not pass muster with voters.
“What it’s really done is take away all the control,” said Superintendent Dr. Peter Mustich, continuing, “It’s taken away the ability for local citizens to decide what’s important for them in their particular school district.”
Although the district did not provide numbers for property tax increases for average assessed homes, there is a property tax calculator on the school’s website that allows residents to calculate their individual rates.
Although the district considered many areas for reductions including increasing class sizes in the elementary grades and cutting fifth grade Exploratory Latin, the proposed budget included cuts to a net total of 5.8 staff positions, including 6 non-mandated kindergarten teaching assistants and several part-time positions: a .5 music teacher, .1 math teacher and .2 Latin teacher, saving a net total of approximately $257K. A single fourth grade teaching position will be added.
“We can’t raise revenue any other way except property taxes…grant funding has slowly dried up as you will see…the only other option you have is to begin to cut programs and change what happens in the local schools,” said Mustich, about the cuts in staffing.
With 76 percent of the budget allotted for mandated salary and benefits costs, and a reductions in revenues like state aid and interest payments, the district is in the same predicament as many schools and municipalities throughout New York State.
Since 2008-09 the district has trimmed 16 staff members in an effort to cut costs from the budget, decreasing from 234 to 218 in 2012-13.
Budget hearing and adoption will take place on April 17 at 7:30 p.m. at Rye Neck High School; the final budget hearing will be on May 2 at 7:30 p.m.; the budget vote will be on May 15 from 7 a.m.-9 p.m. in the Rye Neck MS/HS Library. A full presentation and proposed budget can be found here on the school's website.