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Superintendent McNeill Explains Proposed Changes

To stay under the 2 percent tax levy limit, the schools are discussing possible options such as reconfiguration of K-5, Reduction in transportation by changing building schedules, additional cuts and dipping into reserves

 

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. No decisions have been made and everything below are options and estimates the school is discussing.

To sum up, with the projected course of the Nanuet schools under the tax levy cap:

In 2013-14

  • Programs and class sizes will be maintained
  • There may be a grade reconfiguration of K-5
  • Possible reduction in transportation costs by changing building schedules
  • Additional cuts
  • Reserves will be used to reduce the levy

In 2014-15

  • Actions will be required
  • Decrease number of teachers
  • Increase class sizes
  • Eliminate programs
  • Reserves will be depleted to reduce the levy

In 2015-16

  • Survival
  • Significant further reduction in staff and elimination of programs
  • No reserves

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

  • Reviewed the last two budget years 
  • Broke down the budget numbers

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:

  • 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

Reconfiguration of K-12

“This (2 percent tax levy limit) is where developing next year’s budget is a different ballgame from the past years, but we want to keep the same strategy (of maintaining programs and class sizes).”

Reconfiguration of K-5 will allow the schools to make personnel changes that will result in cost savings of about $800,000.

One question that was asked was if there would be enough room for K-3 at Miller Elementary. 

"We will have the room, it will put a burden on Miller. Miller at one point had (well more than 700) students. This will bring us up to 650 students. That’s going to be a lot," said McNeill. "Miller will be loaded, but if not that, then it’s right to class size."

In the past, Miller housed up to 749 students, said Betsy Smith, Miller Principal.

Board Member Sarah Chauncey asked why move fifth graders to Highview.

"One of the reasons is that fifth grade is departmentalized. Another is special ed; if you have a 3-grade building as opposed to a 4-grade building, you would have much fewer teachers because (you wouldn’t need more to handle) that age range," said McNeill adding that state law says a special education teacher can only be trained and used for a 3-grade range.

"We can save on special education costs. We can save on the different schedules. There are other personnel moves that are associated with the grade reconfiguration that are dependent on the schedule. There are individuals that will be affected so we need to be very sensitive with this issue

"These are very early estimates," said Sions. 

“This is a very difficult statement to make because we’re talking about teachers, employees, this is their livelihood, their career,” said McNeill. “In this situation where we have a legislation that says ‘2 percent + your revenue, and that’s your cap.’ What this means for Nanuet is a budget gap of $3.5 million. We have too look to see how and where we can make this up. There’s no educational rational being presented here.”

He and the other board members are not happy with what the tax levy limit has and will force them to do because in the past, they could build the programs first and then the budget. However, the cap means that they have to put the budget in front of programs, class sizes and education quality, in order to stay under the cap.

Chauncey asked if the empty Barr MS rooms can be used to rent out to BOCES. McNeill answered that they're going to return to the board with ideas for the surplus rooms. 

Transportation

“We think we can tweak $200,000 more (from the $3.5 million budget gap),” said McNeill. This reduction in transportation by changing building schedules will affect the elementaries.

Miller and Highview are currently bused at the same time. With this change, they would be staggered so one would be bused first and the other would be bused second.

“We can eliminate a few more buses this way.”

Last year, to save on busing, a very similar move was made. 

The district was on a 2-tier bus system which uses 24 buses for the high school and middle school and 18 buses for Highview and Miller elementaries. However, start/end times for Barr and NHS was staggered, eliminating an unnecessary round of busing.

Check back with Nanuet Patch later today and tomorrow for more on the meeting’s discussions on reserves and possible future changes in staff, programs and class sizes. 

Risa Hoag October 11, 2012 at 12:02 PM
Nanuet needs to look into corporate funding and sponsorship (other schools do it) and we need to get in touch with our alumni. What happened to the Foundation?
John Q. October 11, 2012 at 12:03 PM
The Administration and School Board should be embarrassed. They will hide behind Pfizer tax issues, but it is lack of plan and leadership that has sunk this district. The misuse of money in this district is despicable. Now cutting teachers and programs to minimize the damage done by this administration. Some of which have taken raises, while the teachers freeze, simply to retire and leave this district in shambles. McNeil has been a puppet for too long, and now exposed with a district on the verge of extinction. Horrible.
Scott Walters October 11, 2012 at 02:31 PM
Hi there. I have been the voice crying in the wilderness, dismissed by the current board as being the 'crazy uncle'. I have advocated for a Director of Development to be hired to bring in money and materials to the schools from businesses local, regional, national and global. This person would also be in charge of alumni relations and developing those networks and contacts to bring in money, materials and expertise from our alumni who have found the quality of their education in Nanuet well worth the investment. My calls for a person to be hired for this position have been dismissed as being unworkable, unmanageable and not effective for the Nanuet community. Can the Superintendent explain this given that his wife works for the Development Office at SUNY Rockland? Can board members who have told me that they called one company and that company said 'no' truly believe that a Director of Development cannot work? Can the other board members who knew that Pfizer was going to explode, that the mall wouldn't have high ratables for several years, who knew that the tract of land at St. Agatha's would end up being a liability instead of an asset pleased explain themselves? More to follow.
allan erps October 11, 2012 at 02:34 PM
Could not agree more with the above answers! The best news is that Mr Vanderhoef is leaving(with pockets full) office. The rest of the in office politicians should follow suit and resign! Staying within the 2% cap is a joke when School Taxes rise 17% in one year(not to mention last year and next to put it over 30%)! Cap has alot of holes in it. Can also guarantee the new Mall will probably be costing taxpayers money as well. PATHETIC!!
Scott Walters October 11, 2012 at 02:35 PM
continued.... The population of Nanuet has been hoodwinked into believing that all was well, given 98% graduation rates, 95% college acceptance rates and all the accolades the schools receive on the outside What they haven't been told is the whole story, and now the administration and board wants us to feel sorry for them. There are fundamental issues that have to be addressed here. Staggering of schedules would allow the schools to operate at hours that are better fro academic success. This would mean that the younger children would start earlier and the older children would start later. All the research on this has shown that indeed the academic success of children based on ages is linked to the time they go to school. Will this board flip the script and have high schoolers report at 9:00 and the Miller kids report closer to 8:00. I am not sure. As well, Nanuet has some buses at their own disposal. Perhaps some of those should be used instead of hiring out Peter Brega to be the exclusive bus company for the district. Everything is on the table. This is the bottom line!
Scott Walters October 11, 2012 at 02:36 PM
The foundation is dead. No one knows who the webmaster is. That is a total disaster. A Director of Development is better since they would be representing the district. A Foundation can pull strings and play games that a good D of D would not allow to happen.
Risa Hoag October 23, 2012 at 11:11 PM
Come to tonight's board meeting. I'm raising these issues.
Scott Walters October 24, 2012 at 03:55 PM
No article yet on the meeting last night. I know it was a long one, and I couldn't be there. Pius, the crowd would have been really riled up with my commentary..:)

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