Will Port Chester's school district fire teachers? Reduce bus runs? Slash beloved but under-utilized after-school programs?
For the better part of two months, the Board of Education has been on the budget, but always in the abstract.
Tonight, the conversation will turn to specifics as the board presents its first line-item budget to the public. Taxpayers, parents and teachers are eagerly awaiting the details of which jobs and programs are on the chopping block, and the board hopes its choices will cause the least ripple in the community while easing the financial burden of homeowners in the district.
When had the budget balloon by more than $5 million, taxpayers weren't happy and were vocal in their threats to vote against the $82 million total budget.
The board and school officials have scaled back to a $79.9 million proposed budget, styling it as "a decrease" from early theoretical budgets. In reality, it's a $2.6 million increase from this year's $77 million.
The board is split between members who feel they can't cut anymore spending, and others who say any tax increase is unacceptable as other levels of government – including the county and the Village of Port Chester – reach deeper of homeowners.
“We’re looking at the big picture and are going to keep working through" the budget process, school board President Jim Taylor said. "We’re comfortable that we’ve looked at every possible thing we can."
Homeowners in Port Chester shell out between $6,000 and $9,000 in school taxes, and some individual tax bills will be raised by more than $600 under the current $79.9 million budget plan.
School board member and Port Chester resident Jim Dreves says that's asking too much in a still-sluggish economy.
“I think [the budget] is still frankly too high and we need to get it lower under these circumstances—it’s not good out there,” he said of the economic climate.
Plus, with miscellaneous expenses, like hall monitors and minor transportation having been removed in previous years due to tight funding, only time will tell what will be next to go.
Tonight's meeting is viewed as crucial – the next public step in the process is a budget adoption meeting slated for April 14. After a Board of Education hearing on May 6, village residents will head to the polls to vote on the budget on May 17.
The Board of Education will meet in room 229 of Port Chester High School tonight at 7:30 p.m.
Follow Port Chester Patch!