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With No Big Changes, Chappaqua BOE Sends Budget to Voters

Proposed 2012-13 budget calls for 2.11-percent tax levy increase, cuts of more than 10 jobs.

The proposed 2012-13 Chappaqua school budget that voters will decide on in May looks much like more than a month ago.

The school board voted unanimously at its Tuesday meeting to pass along a budget with the spending increase ($754,400 or 0.68 percent) unchanged from the initial version presented. The tax levy increase of 2.11 percent (an increase of more than $2 million) is also the same amount. The levy, which is the total amount of tax revenue that the district wants for revenue, comes in under the 2-percent property tax cap because it includes exemptions such as capital and pension costs, along with changes to the property tax base.

The impact of the tax rate, which is the amount of tax to be paid per $1,000 of assessed property value, will be quite different among the district's towns. New Castle taxpayers could see an increase of 1.63 percent while residents who live in a northern strip of Mount Pleasant could see a hike of 9.6 percent. The tax rate, unlike the tax levy, is not subject to the cap. For an understanding of why there is a large gap, for our previous story.

Job Cuts Remain, Including Psychologist

The net number of job cuts, 10.44 full-time equivalent (FTE), is also the same.

At the meeting, the school board had no good news for residents who were hoping that a could be avoided. The cut will remain in the proposed budget, which is coming in connection with the retirement of the psychologist at Westorchard Elementary School. The plan unveiled last month will be for the remaining two full-time pyschologists to float between the three elementary schools and for a 0.4 FTE to conduct special education-related evaluations.

Parents reiterated their displeasure in reaction.

Dawn Greenberg was disappointed with the decision. However, she believes that board members came at it with good intentions. She also hopes that administrators will monitor the situation. Her concern centers around making sure that kids who are not in special education also get support from the psychologists in the case of events such as bullying.

"Disappointed," said Karen Bazik, who chairs the PTA's special education committee. She is concerned about the pyschologists getting to know the children and the impact the changes could have on that.

Eric Byrne, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, defended the plan.

While it's not ideal, he explained, he thinks it's a good plan given the challenges that the district faces.

High Costs Continue

As in previous budgets from recent years, this one is being driven by escalating costs, notably a rise in state-mandated contributions to the public employee pension systems. The rise in the contributions is part of a $441,454 increase planned for employee benefits, from $24,382,066 currently to $24,823,520 for next year.

With an interest in sending a message to the state in protest of the mandate, board Vice President Jeffrey Mester suggested spending an additional $50,000 from reserves in place of a $49,342 portion of the pension contribution that is exempted from the tax cap. Fellow board members disagreed with pursuing the idea, either because they supported another approach to lobby for change or because it was felt the reserve funding should be used for something else if needed. For the proposed budget, $3 million in reserves spending is called for.

What's Next?

Voters will get to decide on the budget on May 15, which is also the date when one school board seat is up for election. That seat is held by school board President Alyson Kiesel, who has announced that she is running again. Whether the seat will be contested remains to be seen.

A copy of a presentation with details on the budget is attached as a PDF.

Bob Coulombe April 11, 2012 at 11:00 AM
When are you going to put into your budget money for generators so that when and I do mean when New Castle needs their designated shelters, namely, Greeley and Seven Bridges, they will actually be able to use them. The Board has insisted for years "not my problem" but it is. Of course it makes much more sense to wait, have a Cat 4 come flying through here, then let a serious bunch of really angry citizens raise all kinds of hell, fire all kinds of people, (including Board of Ed Members) pay tons of money for the law suits you so rightfully earned for ( there are a few of those rascally lawyers domiciled in New Castle ) this stupendous arrogance. I and others in the First Responder Community have been waiting for years for someone on the Board and the Town mangement to get past this impasse and exerecise common sense. You do not have a Shelter without power. It is that simple. HELP. Bob Coulombe
Dr.SusanRubin April 11, 2012 at 05:29 PM
It seems like many of my neighbors have already invested in generators. They clearly value that over the "energize" program that encourages people to install insulation. The focus is on "me" not "we". As climate change becomes more obvious, we will no doubt shift our priorities.
Dr.SusanRubin April 11, 2012 at 05:35 PM
Bob, as a first responder, you might want to consider other factors in addition to the Cat 4. Here's a link that could help. http://www.futurescenarios.org/ Also look to connect with www.TransitionWestchester.org, they are on the same page as you with regards to emergency planning.
Bob Coulombe April 11, 2012 at 10:27 PM
I have no idea what you are talking about Susan. Here is what I know. This town has two facilities listed as " shelters" for New Castle. They cannot operate without Generators. I am a member of the Westchester County EMS Advisory Board and until October was Commander of the 105th Joint Task Force at Stewart Air National Guard Base whose mission is to help prepare our State for a. Terrorism and b. Natural Disasters. In this Town Jim Mc Cauley ( then head of CERT Community Emergency Response Team for New Castle) and I argued ( along with the endorsement of then Chief of Police Bob Breen) that we needed Generators to have these two sites WORK. In the plan for 7 Bridges there was a budget item for a Generator. It vanished . The fight is who pays and the finger points to you. They are your schools. Frankly I do not care who pays but you are it! My concern is our citizenry and neighbors who will and I repeat will need help at some unappointed time. Neither I or Jim McCauley or Bob Breen are empty chairs. What irritates me the most as I work and have worked with our First Responders in this entire County for 25 years is "Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda ). Lastly what on earth are you talking about with your " energize program" and " we will shift our priorities" . Do you even know what I am talking about? Let me keep it simple. Greeley and 7 Bridges have to work when they do not have power. The answer to power is in your court. Bob Coulombe
Dr.SusanRubin April 23, 2012 at 09:48 PM
Hey Bob, we are talking about similar and yet, very different things. My concern is more with the "long emergency" that will eventually roll out. Its a combination of climate change/ resource depletion and economic collapse. Wander on down to our local library and check out The Long Emergency by William Kunstler. After that, let's talk!

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