Richard Organisciak announced tonight that the District’s preliminary budget for 2009-10 calls for a 3.75% increase in spending. The District will seek to raise taxes 4.9% to support the increase.
The board refused to provide members of the public with copies of the budget documents, they are not available on the district’s web site and will not me made available to the public prior to tomorrow night’s budget meeting at New Rochelle High School.
Highlights include the following:
There will be an 11% cut in the budget for school supplies and materials so parents can look forward to being asked to provide over $100 per child in supplies in September.
There is now a “vacancy control process” in place so that newly vacated positions are not always being filled.
The district reduced its insurance coverage which will lower the cost of insurance premiums by $200,000
Full-Day Kindergarten for all schools is still in the budget.
After presenting the figures, copies of the budget were handed out to board members. In what was perhaps one of her worst acting performance, Cindy Babcock-Deutsche pretended that was not familiar with the budget numbers until announced by Organisciak.
In an evening full of laughable candards, Babcock-Deutsch affected to be pleasantly surprised that that the increase was below the state number. Of course, the state number she was referring to is a fabrication.
She said that if the budget was voted down in May that the increase in the budget would actually be greater because the budget would be managed by the state and tried to imply that if the state took control of the budget they would increase the budget by 4.1%. Organisciak added that if the budget were not passed then taxes would go up more than 4.9%.
It is hard to understand how they think people are so gullible in New Rochelle to believe that the District is proposing a budget lower than what the budget would be if the budget was voted down. Since when has the school district sought LESS money? The basis for this house of canards is they are using a figure (4.1%) from previous formulas used by the state when the State was not in the middle of the biggest economic crisis in decades. There is no way on earth that the State is going to mandate a budget increase like they have done in past years.
Organisciak actually called a 3.75% increase a “maintenance budget”.
Even more bizarre, Organisciak announced that negotiations with the unions is ongoing. What sort of negotiating is the District doing with the unions that they are going to disclose beforehand how much money they are allocated for the teacher and administrative salaries and benefits? It seems like it gives the other side the upper hand in a negotiation when you disclose your final position before you conclude the negotiations.
The first budget meeting is tomorrow night at New Rochelle High School but members of the public will not be allowed to see a copy of the budget until AFTER the first meeting — if then. There are only three budget meetings and one of them is solely dedicated to special education so that leaves just one meeting where the public can attend while knowing what the District is actually proposing.
UPDATE: we have received a comment – presumably from one of our elected officials who feels the need to cower behind the anonymity afforded by the internet which seeks to clarify the about issue on the state cap. Ironically, this is an answer to questions I raised last night at the board meeting which school officials declined to answer. He or She writes:
School districts that operate under a contingency budget in the 2009-10 school year will have their spending increase capped at 4.00 percent over last year’s budget. According to the law, the contingency budget cap is equal to the lesser of 120% of the calendar year average CPI increase or 4.00 percent. The average increase in the CPI for 2008 was 3.8 percent, and multiplying 3.8 percent by 120 percent equals 4.56 percent. Therefore, because the law defines the contingency budget cap as the lesser of 4 percent or 120 percent multiplied by the CPI increase, the contingency budget cap for the 2009-10 school year will be 4.00 percent.
If the budget presented by the Board is not approved by the community, then the Board has 3 options: resubmit the same budget for a second vote, resubmit a lesser budget for a vote or go right away to the contingency budget which is capped at 4% for SY 09-10.
The 4% contingency limit is a CAP. The Board could adopt a contingency budget at any level lower than the cap. In fact, the Board could adopt a budget higher than the budget submitted as long as it not exceed the cap set by the state. Given this scenario, it seems almost certain that whatever the outcome of the voted budget in New Rochelle, the tax rate increase of 4.9% since the budget presented to the community is below the 4% that is the cap for contingency budgets.
If the budget is rejected by the community in a second vote, then the Board must adopt a contingency budget.
To which I reply as follows:
The issue that interest many voters in New Rochelle is not whether you are proposing to be .25% below a cap or .35% below a cap but why the district has shown no indication of holding the line in negotiations with the unions, why the district is proceeding with districtwide full-day Kindergarten, why the district recently added a $60,000 position for a “community relations” person, why the district is spending over half a million dollars on legal services without any competitive bidding or a requirement for proposals for work done by the lawyers, why were are spending over $100,000 a year for cooking classes at a gourmet restaurant, why City Hall is chocked the gills with redundant administrative staff. And we have no information at all on what sort of requests were made by the District to Albany with regard to the $24 billion+ that New York State is getting as part of the stimulus package. Has the district ever considered not raising taxes at all? Of actually reducing spending from last year? Of discontinuing luxury programs like the cooking classes? How about not routinely exposing the District to multi-million dollar litigation? I believe you have a single school that is looking at multiple lawsuits right now where the money being demanded is somewhere approaching $5 million. Is any of that information going to be disclosed so that people fully understand what they are being asked to support?
If the District is so concerned about the public having an accurate understanding of what it is they are doing why not spend less time with pedantic diatribes and more time in using the District’s own web site to provide a full and accurate accounting of what the District is doing. You could start with publishing all of the hundreds of resolutions the board approves each year with zero input from the public and toss in the latest budget document as well.