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School Budget: Reserves, Layoffs to Close $4M Gap

Nanuet residents raised concerns over how a worsening education quality may lead to a decline in their property values

 

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At the Nanuet School Board meeting earlier this week, Superintendent Mark McNeill presented details on the 2013-14 school budget to a room of more than 100 people. In the upcoming budget workshops, the district will need to look into how to close a $3.9 million gap to get under the tax levy limit. In earlier Patch articles, McNeill announced his request that the grade reconfiguration would be tabled and went over budget trends and mandated fixed costs.

Upcoming Budget Workshops:

Workshops do not have an agenda nor a public forum

  • March 11—General support, buildings and grounds, transportation, benefits and revenue
  • March 12—Staffing and instruction
  • March 19—Total Budget Review (followed by a regular board meeting)

The powerpoint presentation is attached to this article as a PDF

Closing the Gap

There’s a gap of almost $4 million the district has to close to get the budget under the 2013-14 tax levy limit

“The reserves for the 13-14 school year are about $2,9 million. I’m estimating for reserves that we would apply this year—If the gap is $3.9 million—about $1 million,” said McNeill. He added that this was just an estimate that would need further discussion at the upcoming March budget workshops.

“All of the unknowns will be known in March.”

Over in Clarkstown School District, they're looking at a budget that has a gap of $9 million between expenses and revenues. Clarkstown School District Assistant Superintendent for Business, Facilities and Fiscal Management John LaNave said if the entire $9 million is withdrawn, it could possibly deplete the unrestricted reserve fund.

Pearl River Director of Operations Quinton Van Wynen is projecting a $1.7 million shortfall in the district budget for 2013-14, with even larger deficits for 2014-15 ($2.4 million) and 2015-16 ($2.6 million). 

Actions Needed to Close the Gap

  • Layoffs of personnel
  • Other reductions in the budget
  • “We’ll be reducing our reserves significantly”

"Next year, we’re not cutting programs. We’re not touching class sizes."

Board Comments

“The way this is playing out in Nanuet is having an adverse impact on the school system,” said McNeill.

“I’ve been on the board a very long time and this is one of the worst times I’ve seen,” said Board President Anne Byrne. “If we make sure our children are educated, we won’t need half the prisons out there or half as much money for welfare. If we don’t have a well-educated public, our democracy is at state. This is the big picture. We have to have a well-educated populace and we’re not going to have that if we keep going down this slope. If we’re no longer a democracy, the economy … is going to go down the tube as well. Education is the lynchpin for all ills of society."

Byrne added that "the taxpayers can only pay so much. (With the town’s tax increases), there's no way to go out again and ask for people to pay much more because 75 percent of the people going out to vote don’t have children in the schools. We’re between a rock and a hard place.”

Public Forum

Nanuet Father CJ Bottitta said during the public forum that he had reached out to Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski, Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee and Senator David Carlucci right after the October board meeting.

“I got a response from Carlucci’s office quickly. I finally got an automated reply from Jaffee’s office last Saturday,” he said, adding that he has yet to hear back from Zebrowski’s office.

He also said that he’d like to see elected officials attend a school board meeting and listen to the discussions that take place. At the end of the meeting, a representative from David Carlucci’s office stepped forward and said that she had been taking notes and would return and discuss the issues with Carlucci the following morning.

“We’re not in great shape but we’re not in as bad as some other districts, but it doesn’t make me feel any better. I’ve continued to reach out,” said Bottitta. “I think education is the most important thing. It affects our property values and resale values. If education goes down, we’re not going to be able to resell our homes and if taxes keep going up, (it’ll be more difficult). I don’t mind paying more and getting more for the kids, but I feel like we’re paying more but getting less and that’s a scary proposition. It doesn’t seem like there’s a bell curve where we’re going to go up again.

We have to reach out to elected officials and follow up with them and … hold their feet to the fire.”

Community Involvement

  • Contact governor’s office and express concern with the tax levy limit formula and how it doesn’t allow for necessary increases
  • Send copies to the state officials
  • A sample letter is on the district website with names and addresses of local representatives

Related Patch Articles:

February

  • $4M Gap In Draft 2013-14 Nanuet School Budget
  • McNeill Requests Tabling of Grade Reconfiguration

October 

  • Future Nanuet School Budget: "Going to be Survival"
  • Nanuet School Budget: Possible Depletion of Reserves
  • Superintendent McNeill Explains Proposed Changes
  • Nanuet School Budget: Breaking Down the Numbers
  • Nanuet Schools 2013-14 Budget: $3.5M Budget Gap
  • Nanuet School Board: Federal Call to Action
Arthur Winoker February 11, 2013 at 04:32 PM
No amount of rhetoric can change the financial picture and unless the state comes to our rescue (which seems highly unlikely given the near insolvency of other districts), we will have to come up with a plan now and not "kick the can down the road." As to the "quality education" argument, NYS according to Governor Cuomo is not doing very well and on top of this ,the increase in taxes is driving down property values to the detriment of all. We now have a revenue problem as well as a cost containment problem. Revenues to offset the Pfizer move out will probably not increase even with The Shops at Nanuet coming on board for several years. Therefore, we may have to do the following: 1. Sell off the environmental center in whole or in part ( 37 acres) as the housing market improves. 2. Reduce administrative staff and teaching staff so as to reduce our operating budget with the benefits that take a major portion of the same. 3. Even GM went bankrupt to remain competitive and reduce pension and health care costs, so this may be the ultimate threat to reduce the latter before higher taxes further depreciate property values which will only emasculate the attractiveness of the quality education that is sought by potential buyers/
Ed Ryan February 11, 2013 at 05:05 PM
One of the reasons we bought the St Agatha's property was it was cheaper to buy the land then to educate the amount of students the new housing would add to the district. At the time this took into consideration the added tax revenue from the land going back on the tax roles. In the 80's the school sold the land that would become the new housing on either side of Pascack Rd. This turned out to be short sited. It was a 1 time revenue bump. The long term consequence was the reopeneing of Highview and additions to HV and the middle school. The cost to the taxpayer ended up being much more than the 1 time revenue from the sale.
Don February 11, 2013 at 05:39 PM
Selling it for housing wouldn't help if it went towards condos. From what I understand, residents of Normandy Village and Avalon Gardens pay a much lower percentage on school tax than those who own homes. Yet Avalon Gardens has 140 kids in the Nanuet school district and Normandy Village has a decent number (12 children from the 16 newly built units).
Scott Walters February 11, 2013 at 07:00 PM
When looking at the fiscal situation, the only source of revenues of money and materials that seem to come into the district come from TAXES. Even state and federal dollars come from TAXES. There are other sources of money and materials that are available to the district, and those would be best served by hiring, on a commission basis, a director of development and alumni relations. While even a great director of development will not completely close the deficit, the amount of money and materials available would make a dent and help serve all the constituent groups. The board, however, has refused to give such a proposal proper consideration. When wlll this board get on board with a help such as this?
Watchdog February 11, 2013 at 07:22 PM
Explain that further Scott. Any numbers?
Scott Walters February 11, 2013 at 08:25 PM
This is from the Nyack School Foundation...from 4 years ago...yet their foundation continues to grow... http://www.inspirenyack.org/news-charity-still-exists.php Having a Director of Development hired by the schools brings even greater credibility. The district doesn't need to look any further than the superintendent's own home, as Mrs. McNeill works for the development office at RCC...
Resident February 12, 2013 at 06:56 PM
PR Schools just started such a Foundation too. It was organized by members of the PR public (board members, parents, teachers, etc). in order to raise money seperately to help the district with programs that possibly the budget won't cover. Its a great idea. Nobody on the board gets paid to work and raise money for the foundation. Its volunteer. With events planned (and continue to be planned) in order to raise more money. Hopefully its a success.
Anil Mammen March 06, 2013 at 10:13 PM
it is time we looked into the possibility of having the Nanuet School district merging with Clarkstown. Makes no sense why Nanuet residents has to shoulder the burden and luxury of having its own school system.
Scott Walters March 06, 2013 at 11:50 PM
Anil...the problem with that is manifold: 1) Many people come to Nanuet for the small district. 2) Clarkstown has it's own problems that perhaps nanuet would not want to be a part of at this time. 3) Even if there was a merger with Clarkstown, the taxpayers would still have rhe shoulder the burden of having a school system to pay tax money. The better alternative? Either a merger with Pearl River (and perhaps South Orangetown) or to have countywide administration be shared and be common for all. If the BOCES program can do this for that portion of the education of students here in Rockland, there is no doubt that we can share other administrative staff and resources. We cannot imagine a countrywide district anytime soon, as East Ramapo has thrown away any chance of that occurring
Anil Mammen March 07, 2013 at 08:22 AM
The idea is to realize some benefits in shared assets that would materialize with a merger. Cutting teachers is not the answer unless their hiring was a mistake. I don't know the full compensation package, but if it is where other municipal employees are, then perhaps they start to contribute as the private sector. Is there a case of negligence and mismanagement by school officials here? I need to understand why school taxes have more than doubled since 2000?
Scott Walters March 07, 2013 at 10:48 AM
Of course the employees should be contributing to their own pension s and other benefits, This goes without saying. At times there have been some additional staf hired, but now some very creative ways have been created to bring the numbers to the minimum needed to perform the necessary activities needed to have solid academics. One can merge services and buying power an such without necessarily merging districts. This is the whole deal with the BOCES program for vocational education. Taxes have risen due to costs increasing and tax bases shifting AND the lack of any creative means of bringing in money and materials from the private sector through a Director of Development and Alumni Affairs. But I mentioned that previously.
Watchdog March 07, 2013 at 01:11 PM
Some day we will come to grips, perhaps when it it too late, that as a community we can no longer afford these outrageous health plans, benefits and the crazy salary schedules for teachers and other public sector employees. As with the Federal Government, it is not about lack of revenues, it is about controlling expenses and that means primarily pensions and medical.
Scott Walters March 07, 2013 at 03:08 PM
Watchdog is spot on regarding this. The amount of money that NYC will have to pay out to my wife when she decides to retire based on her age and how she'll work the pension could be as much or more than she earned while teaching. Mind blowing...and she didn't have to contribute one red cent...

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