Click to read a summary of the and special education PACs' presentations.
Six of the 's planning and advisory committees (PACs) made presentations to the board of education Tuesday night, offering insight and suggestions for elected officials to consider while shaping the 2012-13 academic year budget.
PAC Chair Tom Murphy told the board the BRS committee was made up of parents with children in the schools who are "relatively new to the school system."
Murphy said the parents felt it was important for the district to maintain the "community" feel of the school, the "high-quality teachers and staff," along with full-day kindergarten and the variety of programs—including science, art, music, library, newspaper, yearbook, plays, etc.
The PAC recommended the 2012-13 budget:
- Stay within the 2 percent tax levy, with a preference to reduce the budget
- Make the process and system transparent to the community and increase community involvement
- Increase revenues
- Re-engineer the existing positions and job descriptions to gain better staffing efficiencies where feasible
- Look to eliminate non-mandated positions not adding value
- Explore classroom size, scheduling, teacher aide utilization
- Look at curriculum restructure
- Merge services with other schools/districts where feasible
- Review administrative staff to determine possible efficiencies
Laurence Barile of the facilities committee told the board costs are relatively low in the district, compared to other school districts, and have become more efficient and cost-effective over time. He offered the following suggestions as possible ways to achieve more savings in the future:
- Complete conversion of boilers from fuel oil to natural gas (in progress)
- Continue to invest in energy efficient measures where practical
- Conduct a successful negotiation for real dollar savings with the CSEA union for the new contract in June 2012
This PAC offered the following areas for potential cost savings in the future:
- Switching to Verizon Business FiOS for primary internet bandwidth (~$22,000 in savings/year)
- Offering AP and high school courses online for low-enrollment classes
- Investigating a centralized printing plan
Joan Jacobson also outlined for the board several recommendations for the district's use of technology moving forward:
- Determine what instructional technology is appropriate and useful at different age levels K-12
- Look into where technology is going and how students and staff will use technology in the future
- Survey teachers, students, parents and administrators to see what expectations exist regarding technology in the classroom and whether or not our current program meets those expectations
- Review telecom costs (approx. $31,000/year) for our VoIP solution
- Encourage teacher training and education for new technology through the Lower Hudson Regional Information Center (LHRIC)
- Investigate the potential of moving away from laptops and toward tablets and iPads for instructional use (lower support costs)
- Explore other opportunities for funding of specific technology purchases: donations, grants, PTA fundraising, corporate gifts, etc.
Compared to the Ardsley and Mount Pleasant school districts, "Where we really fell short was in the SmartBoard area," said Jacobson.
Chuck Matteo presented benchmarking statistics from other school districts in the county to support the following recommendations to the board:
- Explore alternate health plans for employees (change employee contribution to a percentage of health premium rather than a fixed dollar amount, change retiree contribution rates)
- Expense planning and reporting (establish longer range plans and financial goals in key expense areas, determine total cost of ownership and benefits for programs and systems, present actual as well as budget numbers in reports)
- Emphasize ongoing long-term nature of the changes
- Increase clarity on use and transfers to reserve funds
- Aggregate detailed expenses for main cost areas
Matteo shared the district's salary step chart for employees, pointing out the raises "are well above the 2 percent [tax cap] level."
He added the salary projections do not "address the long-term solutions."
School Board President Lois Winkler said at the conclusion of the presentations: "These have been excellent reports...[they] have just confirmed what we all knew—that this is a long-term process."
She concluded, "We have to lay the groundwork and move forward as a community to solve this."
The and Athletics PACs will present to the board at the Feb. 28, 2012 school board meeting.