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Future Nanuet School Budget: "Going to be Survival"

Possible items on the table are: depletion of reserve funds, reconfiguration of K-5, increased class sizes and personnel and program cuts

 

At Tuesday night’s board of education meeting, Superintendent Mark McNeill presented a power point slide to the board of where the district stands. All numbers are estimates because it’s so early in the school year. The power point is also attached to this Patch article.

This year they projected they’ll need to close a $3.5 million budget gap to get under the 2 percent tax levy cap.

Nanuet Patch will be going into detail on each of these topics in a series of articles in the following days. In earlier Patch articles, McNeill:

  • Reviewed the last two budget years 
  • Broke down the budget numbers
  • Explained the proposed 2013-14 budget actions
  • and the Board discussed the possible depletion of reserves

Looking Forward

“This is going to be year two of the tax levy limit. We need to look at how we can preserve instruction programs and class sizes,” said McNeill.

School administrators have been brainstorming different ideas and strategies on how to tackle the $3.5 million budget gap. The following have been proposed for 2013-14:

  • Reconfiguration of K-5
  • Reduce Transportation
  • Additional cuts
  • Apply reserves to reduce the levy
Closing the Budget Gap $3,551,543 Proposed Cuts in 13-14 -Grade Reconfiguration    $800,000 -Transportation/Schedule Change    $200,000 -Transportation/Busing              $0 -Additional FTE              $0 -Additional Cuts      $80,000 Total Cuts $1,080,000
Reserves needed ($3,551,543-$1,080,000) $2,471,543

The Future

“This is a presentation/discussion. This is the beginning of October. We’ll be coming back to the board and presenting more on these issues,” said McNeill. “This is the big picture.”

In the chart above, there is a zero next to ‘transportation/busing.’

“Universal busing, that’s not on the plate right now. We have a zero there. Can I say that by the end of the year, we’re not going to put it on the plate? I don’t know if we will or not. We’re doing our investigation,” said McNeill.

McNeill said that they are currently looking into the cost savings. He added that if they found significant savings, they would have to consider whether or not to have a mid-year vote.

“If we put it off, until the May vote … we would still have to budget (in case) it went down. If we were to put before the voters that we’d like them to consider rescinding universal busing regulations that we’re under, then it would be associated with a certain (cost savings that we’re still investigating). That’s an issue for further down the road.

Also to close the budget gap, there will be additional FTE (full-time equivalent, aka teachers and staff) that will be cut. Currently, that line item in the above chart is zero because it has yet to be determined.

“Let’s say that this is it,” said McNeill, referring to the chart as is. “Where are we going to get the rest? Obviously we’re going to go to our bank, to our reserves to make up the difference. In this case, we’re going to take from our reserves $2.5 million.”

Beyond 2013-14

“There’s no way in 14-15 that we can keep all the programs or that we can maintain class size,” said McNeill. “Anne (Byrne, Nanuet School Board president) mentioned that there are some school districts this year that are going insolvent. I think that the Nanuet is a model school district. We have healthy reserves, we have wonderful balance sheets, our kids are performing at or above the schools in the state. Well, what is this legislation doing to us? In 14-15, that’s the end. It will be the first year where it won’t be the same strategy anymore. Really, it’s going to be survival.”

He added that the projections of the district in 2014-15 and beyond, the school will have to “hit our reserves, cut programs, decrease number of teachers, increase class sizes, there’s no place else to go. We’ve already exhausted everything else.”

Board Member Ron Hansen asked what the average teacher salary was. McNeill answered saying it was $80,000 and that number does not include benefits.

“We’re going to be chipping away at quality. We’re going to chipping away at everything that supports the kind school district that Nanuet is. It’s all driven by the tax levy limit.”

McNeill gave the example of Barr’s schedule. A few years ago, Principal Roger Guccione was given the task of improving the students’ class schedule. He was able to increase by 30 percent the amount of time a student would spend in their core classes. Before this current school year, students took 55-minute core classes.

Last year, Guccione was asked to develop a schedule change because of the need to cut costs within the school district to stay below the required tax levy cap.

“I don’t know of another way to approach this other than the grade reconfiguration and the reduction in teachers and salaries," said McNeill.

“Whatever we do, it’s going to take forever to get us back to where we were again,” said Board Member Sarah Chauncey. “We’re never going to get those things back.”

“We’re not going to be able to increase the budget to put those things back in,” agreed McNeill.

Super Majority

Chauncey brought up the option of going out for a super majority. With 60 percent of the public vote, the district can go above the 2 percent tax levy limit.  However, there’s a catch.

“If we went for an override, and we lost, then the levy doesn’t go up 2 percent, it stays with the prior year’s levy. There’s actually a penalty for seeking permission for going above 2 percent. If the voters say no, you just lost the little increase that you had going from one year to the next,” said McNeill.

“The super majority only helps you that one year,” added Board Member Ron Hansen.

Byrne added that they couldn’t go out for a 60 percent override because Orangetown and Clarkstown taxes were already hitting taxpayer wallets so much in the past few years.

“I remember sitting down during the budget and it was all about education. Unfortunately, we’re not doing that anymore,” said Chauncey.

Scott Walters October 12, 2012 at 01:42 PM
Situation looks pretty dire. Looks like we really need other sourcing of money and materials. I would hope that the board reads the Patch and comes to their senses about a Director of Development. That person would not recoup all of the money and materials needed to make the school budget gap disappear, but every bit helps!
Arthur Winoker October 17, 2012 at 05:20 PM
What is the total amount of the reserves and after they are exhausted, what will be used to fund future deficits (aside from the potential of some revenue from The Shops at Nanuet)? A long range projection is needed and may have to include selling off all or a portion of the 37 acre tract purchased several years ago from New York Foundling Hospital.
Scott Walters October 26, 2012 at 02:47 PM
We are still looking for a report on Tuesday's meeting. Kim, I know you've been sick, but some of us couldn't be there and are very curious...

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