School administrators and village officials beginning the budget process face tremendous uncertainty over how long the pandemic will continue to affect education models, municipal services and the bottom line.
Though revenues are down due to COVID-19 restrictions, and loss of sales taxes and parking fees during the pandemic, neither the village nor the school district is likely to slash expenditures. If they did, they couldn’t possibly maintain the level of services and education that drew current residents to Scarsdale.
We are watching closely to see how 2021-22 budget talks play out on both fronts. The trustees started budget talks with a first pass on Jan. 21, while the school board heard staffing recommendations and a report on key budget drivers earlier this month. Both boards want to keep expenses down while fulfilling their respective missions to provide excellent education for students and essential services for residents. The school board is inching toward a modest 2% increase, but that could rise or fall, depending on requisite contributions to employee retirement systems and other variables. About 80% of the school budget is tied to employee salaries and benefits, including mandatory contributions to the New York State retirement systems. Similarly, the village faces high fixed costs for its union employees. Those budget drivers may be largely immutable, but residents can have a say in other areas during budget development. The meetings are happening now on Zoom and will include opportunities for public participation. The village will hold two daylong departmental budget reviews on Jan. 25 and Jan. 28, and the school district’s first draft will be released prior to the school board meeting on Feb. 1.