by Linnet Tse
At the Larchmont-Mamaroneck Local Summit’s April 18 breakfast program, Rye Neck Superintendent of Schools Dr. Barbara Ferraro and Mamaroneck Superintendent of Schools Dr. Robert Shaps, shared highlights of their proposed budgets and discussed key district initiatives. According to the Superintendents, each proposed budget preserves the robust, quality programs that both districts are known for as well as the personalized approach to learning that both communities value.
Rye Neck Highlights
Rye Neck residents will be voting on a proposed 2017-18 school budget that decreases spending by $233,985, or 0.58%. Dr. Ferraro explained that the accompanying proposed tax levy increase of 0.72% will be under the tax levy cap for the sixth year in a row, and will result in an estimated tax rate change of 0.35% for Rye Town residents and a 4.74% increase for Rye City residents.
Dr. Ferraro, who assumed the School Superintendent role in January 2017 after serving as the principal of Rye Neck High School since 1990, noted that the proposed budget preserves and improves instructional programs and addresses enrollment and programmatic-driven staffing needs.
Dr. Ferraro highlighted that the 2017-18 budget preserves full-day Kindergarten; maintains favorable class size; provides for the expansion of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) programming; and continues to support robust arts, music, and athletic programs.
The proposed budget also includes funding for 6.1 new instructional staff positions, in part to meet the demands of recent enrollment growth. Dr. Ferraro remarked that Rye Neck’s enrollment is the highest it’s ever been, with 1,637 students K-12; a 4% enrollment spike in the past two years is now resulting in a bubble at the middle school.
Looking ahead, one of the challenges that Rye Neck will be facing is finding a way to meet their capital needs since an October bond referendum ($35.5MM) aimed at expanding instructional space to support growing STEAM programs was narrowly defeated by a mere twelve votes. Dr. Ferraro expects the Board to revisit the District’s facility needs shortly after the May 16 budget vote.
The proposed Mamaroneck budget continues its investment in excellence, according to Dr. Robert Shaps, who is serving his 7th year as Superintendent of the Mamaroneck Schools. Dr. Shaps noted that the budget preserves the District’s “points of pride,” including its acclaimed music, fine arts, and performing arts programs; system-wide focus on the whole child; unwavering emphasis on quality teaching; accomplished athletic teams; and an innovative design/computer science/engineering program that has earned Mamaroneck recognition as a premier computer science high school in the county.
Dr. Shaps stressed the need to continuously improve and innovate. As one example, Mamaroneck High School will be piloting a new authentic learning experience – a multi-year original civic research-in-action program where students will learn firsthand about engaging in civic empowerment by selecting and trying to address a local issue.
Dr. Shaps clarified that there will be no changes to the popular PACE program. As for the APPLE program, the “school within a school,” Dr. Shaps explained that it will be re-designed to better meet the needs of at-risk high school students, noting the program has been experiencing declining enrollment.
After five consecutive years of keeping its budget under the tax levy cap – an average 1.3% growth per year – Mamaroneck’s proposed budget for this year exceeds the cap for the first time since the legislation was enacted. For five years, the District has succeeded in creating efficiencies and finding smarter ways of doing things to stay under the cap. However, significant enrollment growth has made it impossible to continue in this path without seriously curtailing programs. Enrollment has increased 7.3% since 2012 and is projected to increase another 1.5% in 2017-18.
The proposed budget-to-budget increase of 1.46% results in a tax levy increase of 2.25%. Importantly, homeowners should note that based upon the Town’s latest assessments, the tax rate itself is projected to decrease by 0.94%. Thus, actual school taxes paid will increase only if the taxpayer’s home assessment increases. Dr. Shaps emphasized the importance of citizens voting on this year’s school budget since 60% voter approval is required to pass the proposed budget as it exceeds the tax levy cap.
The statewide date for the school budget vote is Tuesday, May 16. More information about the proposed budgets may be found on each district’s website. For Rye Neck: http://www.ryeneck.k12.ny.us/school_board/budget_information and for Mamaroneck: http://www.mamkschools.org/district/budget .
This breakfast forum was hosted by The Larchmont-Mamaroneck Local Summit. Its next program will be Tuesday, May 16, 7:45 am, at the Nautilus Diner in Mamaroneck and will address immigration issues. All are welcome. Breakfast $8.