The Scarsdale 2012-13 school budget passed handily with little opposition from the community on Tuesday May 15. 725 votes were cast, 573 in favor and 152 opposed, for a total approval rate of 79%. Voter turnout was lower than last year when 877 votes were cast and the budget passed by 70%. The count was comparable to 2009 when 722 votes were cast and the budget was approved by 76%.
The approved 2012-13 school budget is $141,790,579 which is a 2.42% increase over last year. The tax levy will go up by 2.89% and complies with the state mandated 2% cap as certain items, including capital improvements, are exempt. For Scarsdale residents, the tax rate will go up 3.39% and for those in Mamaroneck the increase will be 2.22%. For more details, click here.
When budgeting began in the fall of 2011, the Board and Administration wrestled with the tax cap legislation and there was much debate about whether or not to override the 2% cap. If the Board had opted to exceed the cap, the new state law dictated that the budget would need to pass by a 60% vote. However, in the end savings from the 2011-12 budget, projected enrollment reductions for next year and the use of reserve funds allowed the Board to present a budget that fell below the cap. To pass, it only required a simple majority. But the vote today, with 79% in favor far exceeded the simple majority.
Unlike previous years the community was relatively quiet during the budget process. From the start, no programs were in peril, class sizes were slated to remain the same and therewere few points of contention. Once the district learned that some capitol improvement projects were exempt from the tax cap calculation, the Board agreed to fund some badly needed renovations to District buildings and to build a fitness center and satellite cafeteria/internet café at the high school. They even designated $100,000 to a new district initiative called The Center for Innovation.
After parents of high school students raised concerns about class sizes in some sections, the Board designated two additional teaching positions for the school, to be assigned once students select classes for next year.
There was some back and forth about the decision to apply $6.3 million from the undesignated fund balance to the 2012-13 budget as some believed that this move could reduce the Board’s flexibility in the future. Members of the Coalition for Scarsdale Schools feared that the use of these funds would make it more difficult to comply with the tax cap next year and could force the Board to make tough decisions down the road when these surplus funds were no longer available. However the Board decided to take a first step toward reducing reliance on fund balances to fund subsequent year's budgets.
Also on Tuesday, School Board candidates Lewis Leone, Jr. and Mary Beth Gose ran unopposed for their second terms on the Scarsdale School Board. Both met voters’ approval with Leone garnering 591 votes and Gose, 589. Former Village Trustee and School Board President Richard Toder acted as Chair of the District Meeting and officiated at the election and District Clerk Lois Rehm ran the entire election.
Commenting on the vote, Superintendent of Schools Michael McGill said, “The Board proposed a responsible budget that allows the community to move forward. I am gratified that they supported it, as they always do.”
In Edgemont, the $50,149,261 2012-2013 school budget passed by 83% of the vote. A total of 607 votes were cast with 505 in favor and 102 votes against . The .58% increase over the 2011-12 school budget is the lowest increase in Edgemont’s history. Due to decreases in the tax base of almost $1 million, taxes will go up by 3.35%.
In order to keep increases to a minimum and comply with the cap, the district did make some curriculum changes and cut staff. Edgemont High School lost 5.5 teaching positions andreduced class offerings. In some cases, the number of students will exceed district guidelines and an outdoor education program was eliminated.
School Board candidate Jennifer Darger received 494 votes and Brian Yarrington, 491. Both are newcomers to the Edgemont School Board.
(Pictured at top: Board President Jill Spieler with Superintendent McGill)