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Next Year's School Budget Set to Increase Spending by $2.2M

The Port Chester School Board adopted next year's budget on April 14. Pending voter's approval next month, the budget will put overall expenditures at $79.5 million from last year's $77.3 million.

The Port Chester School District has approved a spending plan for next year that will tack on an additional $2.2 million in spending.

At an April 14 budget presentation, officials calculated expenditures at $79.5 million for the 2011-2012 school year—a significant jump from last year’s $77.3 million.

Officials said that overall district upkeep, rising teacher salary costs and $16 million in employee benefits—up $2 million from last year's budget—are partially responsible for the new village tax bill. High student enrollment in the district has also made classroom sizes large already, so eliminating staff members would cause overcrowding.

“There are several classes in the district that have over 25 [students] in them," said Jim Taylor, president of the school board. "That doesn’t give much room to reduce staff."

The district is set to receive $700,000 more in state aid than was initially expected, which may help homeowners breathe a little easier come tax time.

With the district's state aid now at $15.1 million, the overall tax levy sits at 3.31 percent and will maintain current teacher positions. But the change from last year’s tax figures will be sure to create mixed feelings from residents around poll time.

“[The school board] has done a good job realizing the economic circumstances we’re in—families are collectively trying to survive,” said Port Chester taxpayer and local chapter President of the NAACP, John Reavis.

Thanks to an incentive that encouraged 28 teachers to retire this June, $1.2 million will be saved by hiring new teachers for next year. Reductions in work-time for two library clerks will save another $18,000.

Additional funds will be saved by reducing the incoming school superintendent's salary by $30,000 to $220,000. Assistant Superintendents Maura McAward and Frank Fanelli will also not be receiving raises this September.

In tough economic times, a $327 million drop in Port Chester assessed property value has caused residents to scramble for dough, according to officials.

The district has already eliminated librarians positions, cut aids and hall monitors, and stopped elementary school bussing on field trips to Port Chester Middle School’s planetarium in recent years.

“We’ve made tough decisions in the past and we’ve done our work already. That’s why you won’t see the drama here that you may in other school districts [come budget time] this year,” Taylor added.

A public hearing will be held on May 5, followed by the budget vote on May 17.

Editor's Note: The article previously said that the district's expenditures were set to increase by $2.5M. The correct figure is $2.2M. Also, the article previously cited a $327 billion drop in assessed property value. The correct amount, according to the school district's data, is $327 million.

Robert Johnson April 18, 2011 at 03:27 PM
Nik... 327 billion???
Jaclyn Bruntfield April 18, 2011 at 05:55 PM
Hi Robert, Thanks for catching that. It should read $327 million. I've changed the article to reflect the correction. -Jaclyn Bruntfield, Guest Editor
Aidan April 18, 2011 at 08:49 PM
Unsustainable. This is an institution that is on the edge of self-implosion. And no one ... not a single board member ... is willing to address one of the most fundamental forces that ramp up taxes: the existing salary schedule. Pension costs are beyond the reach of local boards ... it is a state matter. But this universal homage to a salary structure that rewards individuals for simply re-appearing every autumn goes unexamined. Therefore, most employees get both a step increase AND a contractual raise ... each year. Where does one find such a compensation method outside of the public employee world? And why has no one examined the logic of paying EVERY district teacher ... regardless of level. subject matter or effectiveness ... in the same manner? Is a first grade teacher the equivalent of an AP calculus instructor? Does a phys ed teacher shoulder the same academic burden as an English teacher? Is the performance of a biology or physics teacher of more importance to a district's measured performance than a art teacher? It matters little ... because teacher compensation is based ONLY on experience (years in service) and credits acquired ... not effectiveness, not on the academic level, not on work load, and certainly not on subject importance. Should any enterprise be run in such a fashion? Where every employee has the same exact value as every other employee? Show me where such an organization exists ... outside of the world of public employees?
Silvio V. Buccieri April 19, 2011 at 12:40 AM
Are you people crazy, where is all this money comming from, soon you will own my home and many others. there has't to be a cap on taxe rate or you will wipe us out. the unions must contribute like i do to keep our taxes down. what are you useing a rubber stamp to okay all. mad as hell tax payer...........
George Datino April 19, 2011 at 12:07 PM
The following is an excerpt from an August 2010 article in the Westmore News (http://pc.westmorenews.com/atf.php?sid=14030): The high school student population has steadily grown each year, from 884 students in the 1996-97 school year, to 1,155 in the 2009-10 school year, and an estimated 1,183 students for the upcoming 2010-11 school year. Combs projects that trend continuing to more than 1,200 students in the 2011-12 year. Enrollment is steadily rising while there is no substantial development within the district. Where is everyone living? Total Assessed Value is going down. That light at the end of the tunnel looks like a freight train to me.
Cadeyrn April 20, 2011 at 11:40 AM
I wish the board members would stop jumpin' into this discussion.
Concerned View April 20, 2011 at 12:28 PM
This is why all students should go through a thorough re-registration for grades 1,3,5,7 and 9. Another poster mentioned this is already being done in Ossining? PC has to demonstrate that it is aggressively validating the school population.
George Datino April 20, 2011 at 02:20 PM
Though I don't have any hard facts, I would venture to say the issue has more to do with the overcrowding and illegal housing units within the district than kids attending the schools that live outside the district. Unfortunately, the BOE cannot do anything about the overcrowding and illegal housing issue (that responsibility lies directly with the Board of Trustees of both villages that encompass the school district). The only thing that the BOE can confirm is that the student lives within the district. They do not have the authority to determine whether the unit that they live in is legal or not or if the unit is overcrowded based on Building Code regulations.
Saverio Terenzi April 20, 2011 at 02:56 PM
George, There is no doubt that the overcrowding in the Village has put a tremendous strain on the school system. I believe the current structure in the Building department will go a long way is stemming the tide. Will this problem go away in the next year, I don't think so. The only issue I have with the school board budgeting process is the way things are presented. The assessables went down $300 million,which is approximately a 9% reduction in tax dollars. Just to be on the same playing field as last year and assuming your house's value remained the same your tax bill is going up 9%. The bottom line is the tax rate increase which was presented to the taxpayers for this year will be somewhere around 13-14%. The Village Board is under the same pressure to deliver services, police,fire and sanitation. The administration throws up it's hands and says here's your 14% increase you figure out how to handle it. I believe there is a majority on the BOT that will do everything in it's power to keep the tax rate flat. It will require some tough decisions but I believe thay have to made, if not when will it end?
George Datino April 20, 2011 at 03:25 PM
Do you know if the new Tax Roll that produced the 9% reduction in assessables was the result of a complete reassessment of all the properties or only a partial? If it was only a partial and in today's dropping market values of homes, does the BOT have to adopt the current Tax Roll as furnished by the Town of Rye? Obviously only doing a partial in these times creates inequity amongst all the tax payers as far as what their fair market value is in comparison to other properties. It the Tax Roll is not providing a "level playing field" for all taxpayers, does the BOT have to use it?
Saverio Terenzi April 20, 2011 at 04:00 PM
George, The BOT designates Mitchell, the town assessor as the offical assessor of the Village. Do we have to accept his numbers I'm not 100% sure but if we don't agree I'm note sure what our recourse would be other than to do our own valuations. if you asking does Markowitz look at 25% of the roll and say we are going to recalculate those parcels, the answer to that is no. The assessment roll that we accept is Mitch's best estimate of what the property values are in the Village. It's not an exact science but that's the system.
George Datino April 20, 2011 at 04:46 PM
Thanks for your reply. The reason I was asking is I seemed to recall some sort of "every 3 year" reassessment of one's property as being part of the process when the Town went to Full Market Value. I also seem to recall that it was supposed to be staggered by doing 33% of the properties in a year. Either I misunderstood at the time we went to Full Market value or my memory is not what it used to be and I am confusing different things. I do recall at a BOT meeting (I believe one of Rye Brook's) or a BOE meeting (PC) where the tax roll was adopted and there was a discussion of whether on not to adopt it. Anyway, since the tax roll is based on a single point in time full market value of 100% of the properties, than there isn't much of a case of it being unfair (from a percpective that not everyone's property value wasn't assessed at a single point in time). Again, thanks for your reply.
Christine Loughran April 21, 2011 at 02:01 PM
To all, a fact I neglected to mention in this story: When the Port Chester Board of Education voted on this budget at last week's meeting, the vote was 4-1. Meaning Anne Capeci, Jim Dreves, Carolee Brakewood and Board President Jim Taylor agreed on a 'yes', while Vice President Blanca Lopez voiced her dissent by giving a 'no'. This was due to a pending lack of agreement between the district and the Port Chester Teachers' Association. Although she did not personally approve the budget, it was adopted regardless. The public hearing to voice concerns will take place May 5 at Port Chester High School, so everybody here who wants a voice heard should come out!
Concerned View April 21, 2011 at 02:30 PM
So what's the Tax RATE increase associated with the School Budget ? As a result of the threads on Patch I'm starting to see the spin as it relates to the tax levy vs the tax rate - and which actually reflects the impact to my wallet.
Saverio Terenzi April 21, 2011 at 03:17 PM
The Town's assessment roll decreased by approximately 9% over the last year. The tax levy is derived by multiplying the assessment roll by the tax rate. In order to generate the same amount of tax dollars the tax rate will have to increase by 9% to make up for the reduction in the assessment roll. So when the headlines read "Only a 3% increase in the levy, or budget-to-budget only a 4% increase" it's all bull. Currently if your assessment on your house remained the same and the current school budget passes expect your school tax to increase by at least 12%. On a $500,000 home that probably equates to at least a $800 increase to your school taxes.
George Datino April 21, 2011 at 03:18 PM
Concerned View, the impact on your wallet will greatly be impacted on whether or not your assessed value on your home stayed the same, went up or went down. Because the total assessables went down 9%, even the budget had not spending increase at all, the tax rate would have to increase by 11% to yield the same amount of money. So for you personally, if the assessed value of your house went down by 9% from last year, a 10% tax rate increase would have you paying the same amount of taxes. Here is an example using low numbers just for simplicity. Last year your house is worth $1,000. With a tax rate of $.10, your tax bill would be $100. This year, your house is worth $910. In order to get even, a tax rate of $.11 would be needed to get your tax bill to be $100. If your assessed value didn't change and your house was assessed still at $1,000 and using the break even tax rate of $.11, then your tax bill would be $110. That is a 10% increase in your tax bill. Now, the current budget calls for additional spending above last years budget (by $2.2 MILLION). So the tax rate that will be used is going to be more than the 10% increase in tax rate, that would have been used if the amount of spending stayed the same from last year's budget to this year's. How it all effects your "wallet" will heavily depend on the change (if any) of the assessed value of your home. I hope this helps answer your question. Sorry if it doesn't.
Aidan April 22, 2011 at 08:00 PM
"On a $500,000 home that probably equates to at least a $800 increase to your school taxes." Gulp!
Rick April 24, 2011 at 09:47 PM
Aidan, You shouldn't mind that , Its for a better school system! It will bring up your home value or so the pro- increase people will have you think. it's only 2.3 million THIS YEAR. Next year we'll go for more ,don't you worry.You have to vote to approve it ,don't let the poor children go without after school activities,band, sports.Let's not ask the poor staff to freeze their wages, they can't live on the small amount they receive.If it dose not pass the first time we will let you vote again till we wear you out and it too will pass.Why not ask the BOE to make cuts in the new employee contract,it's up in June.- 0 % increase- plus larger co-payments in the medical package, cut out state mandates unless the state will pay for it.Tell them we're mad as he-- and not going to take it anymore! Maybe we can save some money by not sending the "pass the budget " package of paperwork home with the children reminding the parents to vote for increases.
FJT April 29, 2011 at 01:42 PM
One of our selectmen was heard to say that Port Chester never lost money on a foreclosure. That gave me a real warm and fuzzy feeling. Is that the plan? Force people out of their homes so we can give teachers regular raises while 95% of the rest of the population can barely keep its head above water. Real nice. VOTE NO!
FJT June 16, 2011 at 10:07 PM
Vision Appraisals appears to have done many appraisals in our village without ANY visual inspection. I'm wondering, is this the norm? Also, in my building, many condos went up in appraised value while others went down. In speaking with my neighbors, there's no rhyme or reason to any of this. Some that were renovated lost actually lost value while mine, which hasn't been touched in 11 years, saw a very significant increase. "Sloppy", "incompetent", "unfair" and "rude" are the words that quickly come to mind. When I attended a hearing with Visual Appraisals, I thought my situation was to be straightened out on the basis of the facts I presented (facts and figures), but lo and behold I received a letter 30 days later, indicating the increase value was to stand. (No explanation was provided.) WHO HIRED THISE PEOPLE??? AND WHY??? I ASK THAT OTHER VILLAGERS WHO WERE SIMILARY TAKEN ADVANTAGE OF COME FORWARD ON THIS BLOG. CLEARLY, AN INVESTIGATION IS WARRANTED.

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