Though the Mamaroneck School District won’t be exceeding the two percent tax cap in this year’s proposed budget, that doesn’t mean that the community won’t be seeing an increase.
Dr. Robert Shaps, superintendent of Mamaroneck Schools, presented his 2013-14 recommended budget of $127,676,555 at last night’s board meeting; the total amount represents a 2.72 percent increase, or $3.3 million, from last year’s budget of $125,295, 897. Despite the budget being $342K shy of the allowable tax cap limit, the tax levy would increase by 3.1 percent and the tax rate by 3.79 percent. For an average assessed home at $20K, this translates to an approximately $595 increase in property taxes.
For a more detailed explanation of the calculations that determine the allowable tax cap percentage, please click here.
There were several factors that made putting together the school’s annual financial plan particularly challenging, said Shaps.
Since 2007, the district has seen an approximately $9 million decrease in total assessed valuation on properties, which has had a direct effect on the tax rate. Within the last two years alone, there has been a $4 million drop, he said.
In 2012-13, the budget actually decreased $1 million from the previous year but, due to an overall decrease in home values, residents saw an approximately $372 increase in their tax bill.
Another challenge that Shaps cited was the need to do “strategic, multi-year budgeting,” defined as budgeting to the tax levy cap to mitigate the need for an override.
And, like years prior, mandated costs for pensions and benefits—which account for an 80 percent chunk of the budget—have skyrocketed. This year, there was a $2.4 million increase for Employee Retirement System (ERS) and Teacher Retirement System (TRS) benefits; a $950K increase in medical and pharmacy benefits and an approximately $150K increase in unemployment insurance and Social Security and Medicare costs.
There was a $656K increase in purchase services—defined as payment for outside services—which includes tuition for special education outside of the district as well as professional development.
The district was able to trim $174K in utility costs by implementing an energy performance contract as well as a $1.1 million reduction in salaries.
“I think a lot of this points to the commitment by the Teacher’s Association for a new contract to agree to a two-year salary freeze,” said Shaps.
But benefits and pensions are not the only areas where the district has to contend with mandated expenses. According to the state, the district must fully implement the Common Core Curriculum for K-12; upgrade the computer network/hardware to prepare for online assessments in 2014-15 and pay costs related to the Teacher/Principal Annual Professional Performance Reviews (APPR).
Upcoming program recommendations for 2013-14 include one additional teacher to balance middle school teams and eliminate the Super Team model; the piloting of a dual-language (Spanish-English) kindergarten; the addition of Science, Technology, Engineering, Math (STEM) course electives at Mamaroneck High School (MHS) and providing incoming students and teachers with iPads at MHS. Both the kindergarten and STEM electives will be “revenue neutral” said Shaps.
“We are reinforcing a multi-year trend of responsible budgeting growth to balance the need for efficiencies and quality,” said Shaps.
The district will hold a public, line-by-line budget session from 9:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. this Saturday in the tiered classroom at MHS.