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School Budget Vote Today: Tuesday May 16

votebuttonThough you may have heard little about the proposed 2017-18 budget for the Scarsdale Schools, the vote will be held next Tuesday, May 16 at Scarsdale Middle School from 7 am to 9 pm. In addition to deciding on the budget, voters will also be asked to approve the re-nominations of Chris Morin and Scott Silberfein, two school board members who were selected to serve additional three years terms on the school board. As the proposed increase in the budget is beneath the adjusted state tax cap, only a 50% approval vote is needed to pass the budget.

The proposed budget is $153,690,765, a budget-to-budget increase of 2.15% over 2016-17. This amount is reduced by state aid, use of surplus funds and other receipts to arrive at a tax levy of $141,490,126 which will translate to a 2.76% tax increase for Scarsdale residents and a decrease of 8.4% for those in the Mamaroneck strip.

Though the budget adds quite a few staff members, this increase was offset in part by savings in other areas such as a $1.8 million decrease in pension contributions, a savings in health insurance costs and use of $2.8 million in surplus funds from this year's budget to fund next year.

Here's a list of the additional district staffing for the 2017-18 school year:

  • 2.5 elementary school reading specialists
  • .5 elementary learning resource teacher
  • .4 Mandarin teachers for the zero period Mandarin classes at the middle school
  • 1 full time pre-engineering teacher at SHS
  • 1 full time STEAM coordinator at SHS
  • 1 additional full time nurse at SHS
  • 1 elementary school teacher to accommodate increased enrollment

The budget allows for over $3 million for district facilities. First, $2.124 million in surplus funds will be used to complete the projects funded in the 2014 bond referendum that includes a new learning commons, design lab and fitness center at the high school, an additional music room at the middle school, a library at Edgewood School, a multi-purpose room and entrance canopy at Heathcote, a new roof at Quaker Ridge and an overall technology upgrade. Additional funds will go towards:

  • Exterior Painting at Edgewood
  • A new playground and concrete repairs at Heathcote
  • Replacement of the Hampton Road stairway at Fox Meadow
  • Bathroom renovations at the Middle School
  • Removal of vinyl asbestos tile
  • District-wide roof repairs
  • District-wide technology upgrades

What's not in the budget? The question about renovations or construction of a new school at Greenacres still hangs in the balance. After community discord, Superintendent Hagerman put the conversation about renovating the existing school or building a new one on hold in the fall of 2016. Since that time he dismissed the district architects, KG&D who were retained after a lengthy search to design the projects approved in the 2014 bond referendum. In February 2017 the district retained a new firm, BBS, and the public was told that they would redo the engineering study and announce their findings soon. At the May 8, 2017 meeting, Dr. Hagerman announced that BBS would present their findings and recommendations at the May 22, 2017 board meeting with plans for a December 2017 bond referendum for district-wide capital improvements.

For the first time since 1999, the budget this year does not include an allocation for the Teen Center. After considerable debate, the board opted to cut $65,000 in funds from the 2017-18 school budget which may very well mean that the facility will close in June.

Community groups including the League of Women Voters, the Scarsdale Forum and the PT Council all made statements in favor of the proposed 2017-18 budget and encourage voters to approve it.

However, in their statement, the League noted a lack of opportunity for community input in the formulation of the budget and asked the board and school administration to consider changes in next year's process to allow for community comment early on . They said, "The League recommends that the Administration and Board find ways to engage early interest in District issues, actively seek input from stakeholders to identify the range of community sentiment, create spaces for dialogue, offer greater agency to stakeholders and build solid buy-in when needed. The League further recommends that any established Board protocols for community interaction be made publicly known."

The budget vote will be held on Tuesday May 16 from 7 am to 9 pm at the Scarsdale Middle School. To vote you must be a U.S. citizen, be 18 years old by May 16, 2017 and have lived in the district for 30 days preceding the vote. Local voter registration for the May 16 election will take place on Tuesday May 9 from 4-9 pm and Thursday May 11 from 1-5 pm in the Board of Education offices on the Brewster Road side of Scarsdale High School.

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