At a school budget study session March 1 — the second of three planned sessions — Scarsdale School District administrators reviewed the preliminary budget for the 2021-22 school year in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, noting many unknowns lie ahead.
The projected overall budget is $166.8 million, which reflects a 2.56% budget-to-budget increase, a 2.15% projected tax levy increase, which is $19,065 below the 2.16% projected tax levy limit. The projected tax rate increase is 1.93% for the town of Scarsdale and 6.28% for the town of Mamaroneck, a difference that is affected by an equalization rate as determined by New York State.
Stuart Mattey, assistant superintendent for business and facilities, explained the district is looking to add two full-time-equivalent (FTE) teachers ($220,000) to meet the district’s needs to provide remote learning. Mattey said additional costs will be incurred with the introduction of an elementary summer enrichment program ($250,000), and proposed increases would also cover salaries, supplies, staff and technology in a “worst-case scenario” during the ongoing pandemic.
Mattey said the NYS Teachers’ Retirement System contribution rate had been revised from 9.75% to 9.8% since the initial budget study held Feb. 8 which led to a $35,000 increase in that line item.
Eric Rauschenbach, assistant superintendent for special education and student services, said the proposed budget for its Safety, Security, and Emergency Management (SSEM) program is set to rise by $169,000 to cover improvements to the district’s security and lockdown systems, including additional security consultant fees, and personnel and software to manage school visitor checkpoints.
Anticipating a cautionary return to full in-person school in the fall, Superintendent Thomas Hagerman said the district increased spending on personal protective equipment, including $330,000 to purchase 4,200 Plexiglas barriers to shield students from viral spread in classrooms. Rauschenbach said New York State has provided COVID-19 rapid testing kits to the district at no charge, but the state hasn’t updated its requirements for testing in a while.
Parents have expressed concerns about the academic progress and emotional well-being of students throughout the pandemic. Rauschenbach said students recently completed a wellness survey, which is being reviewed by the Mental Health Task Group. He also said academic screenings and state tests are in place to assess students’ academic performance.
Regarding the district’s expenditures on facilities, Mattey said the proposed budget will cover ongoing maintenance and special projects for $630,000, about the same as the current year, and there are no plans for major renovations other than those funded by the 2018 bond.
Preliminary budget as of March 1 shows students services and special education expenses at $5.8 million, compared to $5.7 million in the current budget (a 1.8% increase), administrative technology costs are expected to decrease slightly to $1.13 million, and technical services to decrease by about 8%. Instructional technology would increase from $1.5 million to $1.6 million, a budget-to-budget increase of $145,878 or 9.82%; when compared to the 2020-21 projected expense, however, the increase is only $89,461 or 5.8%. For capital projects, the proposed budget includes $485,000 to continue long deferred renovations, which are a safety priority in the high school auditorium.
The third budget study session will take place March 8 at 6:30 p.m. in the Scarsdale High School auditorium, and a public forum on the budget will be held March 22 at 6:30 p.m. with links for virtual participation by the community.