As Pleasantville school officials continue to grapple with the 2013-14 preliminary budget's fiscal challenges, community members are increasingly becoming involved in the process.
On Tuesday, the board of education heard a presentation by the district's first finance committee, which outlined revenue and expenditure projections and options over a five-year period.
"We hope to do this on an annual basis; at least that's my hope and desire," Board and Committee member Larry Boes said.
The committee on March 12 looked at what a five-year rollover budget would entail and shared findings about some of the major cost drivers—pension, teacher retirement system (TRS) and healthcare. Also discussed: how much fund balance could be spent year-to-year, as well as upcoming capital projects the district anticipates tackling—including the middle school roof and high school turf and track.
On April 9, the Bedford Road School PTA is inviting community members to address the tax cap, high stakes testing, pension/health care and fund balance use during a 9:30 a.m. meeting.
"Our goal is to organize local PTAs and school boards to appeal to state legislators for mandate relief," said PTA Member Amanda May Dundas in an email.
While Finance Committee Member Dan Townsend acknowledged "Pleasantville is in a better position that some surrounding school districts," school officials have been eyeing cuts that would allow the district to minimize its use of fund balance in 2013-14 and in coming years, as well as stay beneath the tax cap.
According to figures presented by Assistant Superintendent David Quattrocchi during the district's preliminary budget presentation, increases in state mandates like healthcare and pensions alone put the district above its maximum allowable tax levy increase for the coming academic year.
A number of residents spoke following the work session discussion Tuesday.
Dundas, a parent of three young children, said she believes it's important "that we have these relatively small class size that we do."
"I think that's one of the things that makes Pleasantville such a competitive school district in Westchester," she shared.
Michael Inglis, a Pleasantville resident and educator at Briarcliff High School, warned the board, "Quality impacts revenue."
With three local high schools competing to bring in tuition from Pocantico Hills students each year, Inglis said a hit to Pleasantville's programs could attract fewer students, thereby decreasing district revenue.
"I think there is a big opportunity to get more students from Pocantico," he said.
He also told the board he thinks the district will "need to eventually override the tax cap."
Jennifer Gorsuch inquired about the teachers' contract, which expires at the end of this academic year. Board Vice President Shane McGaffey said the parties "are in negotiations."
Gorsuch, parent of an incoming kindergartner, also said she wouldn't be opposed to switching to half-day kindergarten.
If the need arises, "Let's go back to half-day kindergarten," she said, stating she would rather embrace this scenario over having too large a class size in other grades.
"I can't stress enough about class size and curriculum," she said. "I moved here five years ago because of the community and because of the schools and everything that came along with it."
- Preliminary budget analysis at the Tuesday, March 19 board of education meeting
- Proposed budget presentation at Tuesday, April 2 board of trustees meeting
- PTA meeting on Tuesday, April 9 at 9:30 a.m. to discuss mandates and advocacy. For more information and to RSVP, email firstname.lastname@example.org.