Tuxedo proposes $15.93 million school budget
With enrollment down, proposed budget would eliminate 11 FTE positions
By Nancy Kriz
TUXEDO — The Tuxedo School District will present a $15.93 million budget for the 2014-15 school year to taxpayers to approve or reject on May 20, which will also eliminate 11 full-time equivalent (FTE) staff positions.
The $15,932,700 proposed budget is an $834,869 decrease over the previous year’s budget, or 4.98 percent less than last year.
From that proposed budget, $11,482,545 comes from the tax levy.
However, that is still $494,482 more, or a 4.5 percent increase, over the previous year.
Tuxedo will again exceed the tax cap for its district, said Tuxedo School District Superintendent Carol Lomascolo.
“I think the budget is fiscally responsible, I think it holds the program while still making those very difficult decisions that needed to be made, even though we’re going over cap, to be as responsible as we can,” said Lomascolo.
Lomascolo said the tax cap is a formula-based one and is unique for each district.
In Tuxedo’s case, its tax cap is 1.4 percent, not the 2 percent most commonly talked about in news reports.
By exceeding its tax cap, Tuxedo taxpayers will not qualify for the New York State Property Tax Freeze Credit for the 2014-15 school year that taxpayers in some districts, including the Monroe-Woodbury School District, will qualify to receive.
The Property Tax Freeze Credit is a rebate check for the greater of the increase in the school tax from the 2013-2014 to 2014-15 year, or 1.46 percent of the 2013-14 tax bill.
For qualifying districts, the rebate check would essentially eliminate the tax increase property owners would see this year.
“It’s the third time we’ve gone over the cap," said Lomascolo. “We’re asking our community for a lot, we’re asking them to stick with us again. Next year will also be difficult.”
Where the cuts would fall
The proposed budget calls for the elimination of a 1.0 FTE position in math and a 1.0 FTE position in English on the high school level.
It also includes the elimination of 2.6 FTEs for special education, a.2 FTE reduction for a family consumer science teacher, a .2 FTE reduction for an art teacher, a .4 FTE reduction for a foreign language teacher, and a .6 FTE reduction for a high school guidance counselor//intervention specialist.
Additionally, there will be a reduction of two monitors and two part time operations and maintenance positions.
Last year, the district also combined two full time positions into one administrative position, reducing one district wide position.
“All of these are reductions due to enrollment, if you don’t have the students to fill the class, you can’t run the classes,” she said. “For these 6.0 FTE positions, what we tried to do is to hold onto these teachers as long as we could, but with the numbers continuing to reduce, we couldn’t hold them any longer. No one likes to lose good people and we are losing good people in this budget.”
Over the past three years, the Tuxedo School District has seen a decline of 170 students.
And, this is very similar to what districts everywhere are seeing, Lomascolo said.
Sports, arts remain intact
“Enrollment issues are happening countywide and statewide, there are no children to fill the chairs,” Lomascolo said. ‘Whether they’re leaving the state, or getting older, we do not have the students to fill the classes. There are smaller classes coming into the high school from both Greenwood Lake and Tuxedo.”
But, Lomascolo stressed, the district’s program remains intact.
“The program itself is being maintained, that really is a message to Greenwood Lake and Tuxedo,” she said. “Our sports are intact, our arts are intact. Any class that is reduced, it’s really a section that’s been reduced. Again, that’s because of the loss of the students, we know that. Nobody is happy about that.”
Cuts and eliminations
There will be cuts or eliminations in the following areas:
The distinct will reduce some clubs that were not run this school year, including: SADD, the Jazz Ensemble, Interact, one Odyssey of the Mind team, and Saturday basketball at George Grant Mason School.
The district will not offer virtual high school classes in the proposed budget, although Lomascolo said she hoped to bring it back the following year.
The State School Ambassadors (SSA) program will not be offered in the upcoming school year, although officials hope to bring it back in the next budget.
Distance learning Mandarin Chinese language university classes will also not be offered due to lower enrollment.
There are other reductions in contract costs, such as reducing the number of copy machines in the district.
STEM and charter school planning
Despite these cuts, the district is continuing with its STEM Academy curriculum rollout and introducing STEM into the 10th grade, as the new ninth-grade STEM class enters George F. Baker High School.
The district is also continuing with its conversion charter school planning.
And, Lomascolo said, the district continues to be responsive to inquiries from non-district residents who wish to pay tuition to send their children to George F. Baker High School.
“People are coming in for tours and conversations,” she added. “We have interest from out of district. We have seats to fill.”
Lomascolo thanked Tuxedo and Greenwood Lake residents for their support.
“This is really a pivotal year for us and next year will be a pivotal year for us,” Lomascolo added, noting the conversion charter school application would be significant for the district. “The dynamics and structure and the way we look will be very different. That’s why we’re asking the community to stick with us. This is a difficult time and we’re moving in a new direction. We need the time to get to that point.”
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