Although the increase in this year’s recommended budget for the Mamaroneck School District is a fraction of last year’s—an increase of $858K versus a $9K increase this year—the estimated cost to the taxpayers will be more than four times what it was last year, a fact attributed to the total assessed value of homes in the district, which has dropped by $1.9 million from $142.7 million to $140.8 million. The lower total assessed value impacts the tax rate—which is currently estimated at 3.43 percent.
The estimated cost to taxpayers on an average assessed home at $20K is $525.00 annually based on the proposed budget.
“We [the district] have no control over assessments,” said Meryl Rubinstein, assistant superintendent for business operations.
This year’s proposed budget comes in at just $9,151 more than last year’s budget, from . This represents a budget-to-budget increase of .01 percent, with a 2.07 percent increase in the tax levy, lower than the 2.53 percent allowable under the tax cap law. Last year’s increase was .07 over the previous year.
And, this year’s budget is further complicated by the two percent tax cap law, a fact that was not overlooked by the district’s administration. “It’s one of those instances where two percent does not equal two percent,” said Rubinstein, continuing, “The tax levy is not the amount each homeowner pays—it is the total amount of taxes that the school district is asking for from the community.”
In a step-by-step explanation, Rubinstein summarized the complex calculation which determines the allowable tax cap percentage. The previous year’s levy—approximately $109 million—is multiplied by the growth rate factor set by the Office of Real Property Services (ORPS), 1.0045 percent; allowable exemptions are then subtracted; this year that included $8.4 million in debt service and $2.2 million in building aid. That number is than multiplied by the lesser of either the Consumer Price Index or two percent (1.02 in this case). The previous exclusions are added back in, plus a .06 increase in ERS pension cost over two percent (approximately $73K) that had been excluded previously. The total amount—$2.77 million—is the highest allowable amount that the district can raise from property taxes. For a more detaiiled explanation, please visit the district's website here.
Other significant budget increases were the same as in previous years, with mandated costs on a steady incline. A total of 82 percent of budgetary costs were attributed to salaries and pension costs, at 55 and 27 percent respectively, an increase of $1.6 million in benefits and $1.1 million in salaries over the previous year. The overwhelming percentage of the benefit increases—$1.5 million—are attributed to the Employee Retirement System (ERS) and Teacher Retirement System (TRS), state mandated expenses that the district cannot control.
The budget also proposes staffing changes, including reductions of 15.2 staff members as follows: two computer techs, one speech/language therapist based on a declining caseload, two teacher assistant positions based on enrollment projects, .6 social worker, four teacher aides, .6 nurse, and five clerical staff members. The shift in staff is attributed to several changes the district plans to make including centralization of attendance reporting and procedures based on stricter state requirements, a plan to upgrade copy machines to form a centralized printing support hub for teachers and an investment in technology including a newly created Director of Technology position to replace computer techs.
In order to achieve some of these goals, the budget proposes to add staff members including the conversion of five contracted occupational therapists into full time positions, one psychologist, .2 distance learning staff and two Academic Intervention Services (AIS) staff at the middle school level.
“We certainly respect and appreciate the work of our district employees…we try to minimize the reductions and impact on staffing,” said Dr. Robert Shaps, district superintendent.
Although the transportation options discussed at a previous meeting were not part of the budget presentation, Rubinstein went over the potential impacts on future budgetary considerations.
The public transportation option for private school students would save an additional $149K over the proposed budget, lowering the tax rate increase to 3.30 percent and the tax levy increase to 1.93 percent. Fully outsourcing transportation would save $560K, with a 1.56 percent increase in the tax levy and a 2.92 percent increase in the tax rate.
The ramifications if the budget fails to be passed by the board and voters are potentially drastic, with a $2.2 million reduction in expenses, reverting back to the 2011-12 tax levy. This could impact 20 teaching positions, said Rubinstein.
The district will meet on Saturday, March 24 at 9 a.m. in the tiered classroom at Mamaroneck High School to discuss the budget line by line. The schedule for the day will be sent out in a K-12 alert later in the week. On April 17, the board will adopt next year’s budget. On May 15, there will be a vote for the school budget, new school board members and a capital bond.