At Tuesday night’s board of education meeting, Superintendent Mark McNeill presented a power point slide to the board of where the district stands. All numbers are estimates because it’s so early in the school year. The power point is also attached to this Patch article.
This year they projected they’ll need to close a $3.5 million budget gap to get under the 2 percent tax levy cap. No decisions have been made and everything below are options and estimates the school is discussing.
To sum up, with the projected course of the Nanuet schools under the tax levy cap:
- Programs and class sizes will be maintained
- There may be a grade reconfiguration of K-5
- Possible reduction in transportation costs by changing building schedules
- Additional cuts
- Reserves will be used to reduce the levy
- Actions will be required
- Decrease number of teachers
- Increase class sizes
- Eliminate programs
- Reserves will be depleted to reduce the levy
- Significant further reduction in staff and elimination of programs
- No reserves
Nanuet Patch will be going into detail on each of these topics in a series of articles in the following days. In previous Patch articles, McNeill:
- Reviewed the last two budget years
- Broke down the budget numbers
“This is going to be year two of the tax levy limit. We need to look at how we can preserve instruction programs and class sizes,” said McNeill.
School administrators have been brainstorming different ideas and strategies on how to tackle the $3.5 million budget gap. The following have been proposed:
- Reconfiguration of K-5
- Reduce Transportation
- Additional cuts
- Apply reserves to reduce the levy
Reserves needed ($3,551,543-$1,080,000) $2,471,543
Reconfiguration of K-12
“This (2 percent tax levy limit) is where developing next year’s budget is a different ballgame from the past years, but we want to keep the same strategy (of maintaining programs and class sizes).”
Reconfiguration of K-5 will allow the schools to make personnel changes that will result in cost savings of about $800,000.
One question that was asked was if there would be enough room for K-3 at Miller Elementary.
"We will have the room, it will put a burden on Miller. Miller at one point had (well more than 700) students. This will bring us up to 650 students. That’s going to be a lot," said McNeill. "Miller will be loaded, but if not that, then it’s right to class size."
In the past, Miller housed up to 749 students, said Betsy Smith, Miller Principal.
Board Member Sarah Chauncey asked why move fifth graders to Highview.
"One of the reasons is that fifth grade is departmentalized. Another is special ed; if you have a 3-grade building as opposed to a 4-grade building, you would have much fewer teachers because (you wouldn’t need more to handle) that age range," said McNeill adding that state law says a special education teacher can only be trained and used for a 3-grade range.
"We can save on special education costs. We can save on the different schedules. There are other personnel moves that are associated with the grade reconfiguration that are dependent on the schedule. There are individuals that will be affected so we need to be very sensitive with this issue
"These are very early estimates," said Sions.
“This is a very difficult statement to make because we’re talking about teachers, employees, this is their livelihood, their career,” said McNeill. “In this situation where we have a legislation that says ‘2 percent + your revenue, and that’s your cap.’ What this means for Nanuet is a budget gap of $3.5 million. We have too look to see how and where we can make this up. There’s no educational rational being presented here.”
He and the other board members are not happy with what the tax levy limit has and will force them to do because in the past, they could build the programs first and then the budget. However, the cap means that they have to put the budget in front of programs, class sizes and education quality, in order to stay under the cap.
Chauncey asked if the empty Barr MS rooms can be used to rent out to BOCES. McNeill answered that they're going to return to the board with ideas for the surplus rooms.
“We think we can tweak $200,000 more (from the $3.5 million budget gap),” said McNeill. This reduction in transportation by changing building schedules will affect the elementaries.
Miller and Highview are currently bused at the same time. With this change, they would be staggered so one would be bused first and the other would be bused second.
“We can eliminate a few more buses this way.”
Last year, to save on busing, a very similar move was made.
The district was on a 2-tier bus system which uses 24 buses for the high school and middle school and 18 buses for Highview and Miller elementaries. However, start/end times for Barr and NHS was staggered, eliminating an unnecessary round of busing.
Check back with Nanuet Patch later today and tomorrow for more on the meeting’s discussions on reserves and possible future changes in staff, programs and class sizes.