The Nanuet School Board held two public hearings at Tuesday’s meeting, one onthe proposed school budget and one on the proposed library budget.
However, there wasn’t too much discussion on either budget at the meeting. There was very little questioning from the public on the library’s $2,772,850 proposed budget for next year, up $318,850 from the current budget. The proposed school budget for next year is $64,599,768, which is a 3.33 percent increase in the budget from last year and a 1.09 increase in the tax levy.
The school board unanimously approved the proposed library budget for next year, and so now both proposed budgets are up for a public vote on May 21st.
There wasn’t much talk about the school budget either during its allotted public hearing. However, every school board meeting has two public forums on the agenda, one at the start of the meeting and one at the end. Shortly after the public hearings, the board and members of the public in attendance engaged in a lengthy discussion that touched partly on the proposed budget, but moved into a broader talk about the future of school districts in general, not just Nanuet’s.
A major focus on during the public forum was teachers, benefits and positions eliminated in the proposed budget. The proposed 2013-201school budget cuts:
- 8.8 teaching positions
- 4.8 teaching assistant positions
- 2.2 custodial positions
- 1.2 clerical positions
- 2.0 monitor positions
It also eliminates all freshmen and most assistant varsity coaching positions.
The biggest mandated increase in cost in the proposed budget is a 34 precent increase in teachers’ retirement system, which goes up to $1,050,990. The employees' retirement system, another cost outside the board’s control, will go up 10 percent to $108,785.
A man in the audience asked if it would be possible to hire teachers as consultants instead to help with costs, but board members didn’t think that could be done. The same man also asked if the board could go to the teachers union and ask for help, such as keeping salaries the same for a year instead of layoffs, given the state of the economy and the district’s financial situation.
Board members said they went to the union to ask about such topics, but nothing came of it. JoAnn Fastiggi, president of the Nanuet Teachers Association, was in the crowd Tuesday night and said after discussion with the board, they decided that with declining enrollment it wasn’t “advantageous” at the time, but they’ll look more into such actions during negotiations at the end of June.
During the meeting Fastiggi also praised the board members for their work, noting they’re doing the best given the situation they’re in. After the meeting she also continued to praise the board.
“The teachers appreciate the time and effort the Board of Education takes to review the budget. It is not an easy task,” she said. “We are willing to work collaboratively with the Board of Education to determine what is in the best interest of the students, teachers and community given the current economic climate. Our current agreement illustrates our willingness to collaborate with the district in a fiscally responsible way.”
Another topic the board discussed frequently with the public are the handcuffs put on the budget by unfunded state and federal mandates. They spoke about Race To The Top, which brings $700 million into the state, although Nanuet only sees $16,000 over four years from it, money that doesn’t cover the cost to implement it into the district. Board members also said mandates take up more than 90 percent of the budget, leaving them little room to work with.
One man asked if the district could simply opt out of the mandates and funding altogether. Board President Anne Byrne said others have tried and were told by the state government they couldn’t do that.
“You can decide on whether you want to take the state aid or not, but you’re still getting all the mandates,” she said. “So, people have looked into that and people have tried to do that.”
Board member Sarah Chauncey expressed disappointment in how the board used to discuss curriculum and programs, as well as other ways to improve the quality for education and now has to spend time talking about mandates, funding and other issues.
A few people asked about ways the district could get around mandates or work better within them, but board members said there’s not much to do in regards to mandates.
“I’m feeling your frustration,” Byrne said. “The frustration around the board when we sit down and do budget, to try and do what’s right for kids and taxpayers is incredible, and especially this year when we’ve had to let go of almost 10 of some of our best teachers in this district. It kills us.”