Some of the ideas from the public presented at Monday night’s Mamaroneck School District meeting
about the financial crisis the schools face included having volunteer parents replace salaried aides in the classrooms; an energy audit; reusing and re-purposing materials; going paperless; opening the contract negotiations early, and commercial grants/sponsorship of various school programs.
Superintendent Dr. Paul Fried told a capacity crowd that the district has "unprecedented challenges" in this new budget cycle. He asked the community to get involved early in the cycle for the 2010 to 2011 budget.
The first half of the meeting was informational. Assistant
Superintendent of Business Operations Meryl Rubinstein spoke of an unstable economy, an escalating state deficit, a weak stock market, and rising pension costs.
The stimulus funding that replaced state aid cuts in last year’s
budget will be ending and cannot be counted on for next year’s
budget. In our current fiscal year, the lion’s share of the budget,
78%, goes to paying teachers’ salaries and funding pension plans. 7% is for servicing debt on the money that was borrowed for past
projects. For the remaining 15%, nearly half is mandated or contractual.
90% of the revenue the school receives is from property taxes. State
aid is a measly 2%. Then there are the unfunded mandates that the
federal and state government require: No Child Left Behind, special
education, learning standards, graduation requirements, and academic support for students.
Dr. Fried outlined some of the more popular suggestions and why they were not feasible: contractual increases, pension cost increases, health insurance premium increases, unemployment benefit increases– no contractual benefits for five "bargaining partners" can be renegotiated until the following year, in 2011.
There is the potential for a 9% increase over the current budget. That 9% breaks down as follows: health insurance: 2% increase, contract
salary: 3% increase retirement rate: 2% increase debt service: 1%
increase other 1% increase. If the budget is voted down, a
contingency budget would be a 0 to 1% increase, which represents a $10 million cut in expenses.
The impact of this financial crisis is expected to result in less
staff, fewer programs (spread out over academic, athletic and
extracurricular activities), and larger class sizes.
The crowd then broke up into smaller groups to ask questions and offer solutions. A full accounting of the ideas is to be posted on the
Dr. Fried revealed an exercise wherein the elementary schools are reconfigured into grades K- 2 and grades 3 to 5. There are cost savings, but the cost of busing would mitigate a portion of those savings. (Note to elementary parents: this is only a cost exercise.)
The school district fiscal year runs from July 1, 2010 to June 30,
2011. The Schools District and the School Board are encouraging the entire community to stay involved in the budget process.
Key budget dates:
March 16- Superintendent’s recommended budget presented to the board
March 20- Saturday budget meeting
April 6- Budget study session
April 20- Tentative budget adoption