Why the Projected New Rochelle School Budget Increase is Too Low

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School Board 2010 Budget Meeting - 5.jpgThis year’s proposed New Rochelle public school budget comes with good and bad news. The Superintendent of Schools, Richard Organisciak, originally stated the latest budget proposal is $3.56 million (or 1.59%) less than last year’s budget. The change in the tax rate was projected to increase 3.8%. In a letter dated March 2, Organisciak said another proposed 15% ($5.6 million) or more in cuts proposed by the State could “wreak havoc with all aspects of our existing education and service programs.” One solution offered was to identify areas where budget reductions could occur. The School Budget Review session on March 9 gave the public an opportunity to respond to this proposed budget which Organisciak said needed another cut of more than one million dollars. Sara Richmond, President of the New Rochelle Board of Education, added the budget was “a work in progress.” However, at the March 16 meeting Robert Cox, editor of New Rochelle Talk of the Sound blog, reported that the budget cut was increased to $5.0 million (or 1.8%) less than last year’s budget and will result in 35 staff layoffs.

Assistant Superintendent John Quinn explained the expenditure details (pp. 2-37) at the March 9th meeting. Lower budget amounts for the new projected year were noted for several items such as district meetings, auditing expenses, and legal services. Reduction in fees for Civil Services administration expenses were also mentioned. Board of Education members raised questions about projected increases in fuel heating oil and gas prices. Quinn replied an energy audit had been made to find areas where they could reduce expenses. In response to a citizen’s comment that there are many Esco’s now which might have lower gas rates than Con Edison, Quinn said he was planning to check into that. Oil companies are selected by bid.

Personnel cuts in various areas such as maintenance are being reviewed when employees leave or retire. However, a resident suggested the district may have to look at more possible cuts of staff to meet the budget goals in these trying economic times.

Steve Sribnik suggested the reality of the 3.8% budget increase will have a severe impact on residents. He felt the taxpayers can’t be continually burdened and that tax cuts were needed because “something drastic has to be done.” He suggested that administrators share in paying for their health costs.

Board member David Lacher reiterated a familiar comment that the assessment base in the City was decreasing and even with an actual cut in the amount of the budget, there was still a need for a tax increase. The loss of 34% of the assessment base over the years has shifted taxes from commercial to residential homeowners. But Monroe Kaufman felt in all fairness when the School Board claimed an increase of 3.9% as they did last year, it is not a final figure because the actual increase turned out to be over 6%. Lacher agreed but added the actual assessment rolls are not finalized until August after the budget is passed. However, he did not disagree with Kaufman A parent requested busing for a private school in Mamaroneck. Robert Cox clarified that under state law busing for private and public school students “has to be equitable” and that the district may end up litigating this issue.