Schools Open. Board of Education Returns to 2019-2020 School Budget.
WPCNR SCHOOL DAY. News & Comment By John F. Bailey. January 2, 2019:
The Board of Education returns to action Monday with a presentation of the school long range budget plan to the Board Finance Committee.
The budget plan may take into account future possibilities of construction and upgrading of district buildings, or entire new buildings, or possible expanding enrollment.
At last look, the district demographic predictions do not foresee growth beyond the present enrollment of 7,245. Nonetheless, every elementary school is virtually filled to capacity.
With the city of White Plains envisioning approximately 6,000 new apartments being added over the next five to 10 years, and despite builders’ claims the surge in apartments will not add significantly to school enrollment, the question has to be addressed:
If the enrollment goes up by 500 to a thousand new students reflecting new entry level students, should elementary schools be expanded by building additions?
Should faculty be expanded to keep class ratios 1 teacher to 22 as they stand now?
Should the district at long last establish an in-district school for the disabled, or classes for the severely disabled to alleviate the pressures of sending students to private facilities for the disabled that costs the district up well over $30,000 per student.
Will the speed of technological change, mean a sharp increase in wi-fi and tech upgrading district-wide? These are expensive and relevant issues to consider.
As long as Governor Andrew Cuomo’s tax cap remains in effect, school district budgets will be held in check.
Had the tax cap not been in effect the last 8 years, the White Plains School Board, more frugal than most districts in Westchester, would most likely have grown to over $230 Million. This year the budget is $218.9 Million.
Last year the Governor’s education tax cap was 3%, however the White Plains City School District chose to keep growth in the budget to 2%, and the commensurate school property tax increase to 2.9%.
This year the tax cap may be higher. And, the school district has to negotiate a new contract with the White Plains Teachers Union, which will probably add a 3% increase in teacher salaries to the budget. This is a key year for the new Superintendent of Schools.
If the district increases the school budget by 4%, assuming a significant teacher settlement, this will take the school budget to $ 227 Million from the present $ 218.8.
A 5% budget increase (not unreasonable considering some of the potential needs I just mentioned at the top of this article), would put the budget at $230 Million.
Now school district may also consider another strategy of creating contingency funds devoted to certain district improvements like technology upgrades, construction additions school-by-school, and significant faculty increases.
Such a significant increase is definitely possible at this time to comply with the New York Stated Education Department language other than English regulations which given the White Plains School District Dual Language strategy of growing the dual language expansion grade-by-grade each year appears a district strategy that is committed to at this time.
It is hard to believe the district will expand the budget by 5% approaching the levels of growth before the tax cap went into place. A 5% increase in the White Plains School Tax would cost the homeowner of a median homeowner approximately $500 more in taxes on the median priced $650,000 White Plains. And considerably more for homes priced over that $650,000 home.
If they keep the budget at a 2% growth rate the budget goe up $4.4 Million to $223.2 Million, a perhaps palatable 3% tax increase. If they up the budget 3%, the total goes up $6,600,000 to $225.4 Million, and perhaps roughly a 4% property tax increase.
I am doing simple baseball statistics here to illustrate how much impact even the slightest increases in the budget inflate it.
The $6.6 Million increase in the budget should take care of some contingency funds as well as the teacher contract, and the start of whatever five year “Must Do” projects that the district sees forthcoming.
This is the year to do that: to start to pay for the projects they think they need: bond issues? Construction plans? New tech? Dealing with demographic issues? Benefits?
The budget year 2019-2020 planning will be the most significant the City School District has ever done.
The creating and planning of the 2019-2020 is the most significant management, budget creativity, negotiating and marketing task any Superintendent of Schools has ever faced in White Plains.
Citizens wanting to follow the budget action closely and add input can do so on the following dates:
January 14, 2019: Presentation of the Long-Range Plan; Review of Budget Parameters.
February 11, 2019: Non-Instructional Budget for Facilities,Athletics, Technology, Transportaion
February 25, 2019: Instructional Budget Presentation (faculty)
March 11, 2019: Presentation of Preliminary Superintendent’s Budget
March 18, 2018: Budget work shop with Board of Education and Administration
April 8, 2019: Adoption of 2019-20 Budget and Property Tax Report Card
May 21, 2019: Budget Vote