Interim Superintendent's Budget Message on City School District of New Rochelle Preliminary Budget 2014-2015

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Interim Superintendent's Budget Message

HIGHLIGHTS:

Preliminary budget is $244,589,925

Budget to budget increase of $5,107,985 or 2.13%.

Estimated preliminary tax rate increase of 2.16%

Budget Maintains All Current Positions

Class Size Goals

  • Pre-K classes will all have registers of 18 children.
  • Grades K to 5, we are seeking to keep these numbers in the low twenty range with a threshold of 25 students.
  • Middle and high school levels, we project classes will enroll about 25 students and it is our expressed goal to limit class size to a number no larger than 30 students subject to the challenges posed by the intricacies of scheduling courses in secondary schools.

Buildings & Grounds Abuse

Keenly aware of the concerns which have been raised publicly about potential abuse within this sector of our operations. The installation of GPS devices in District vehicles was an initial step in monitoring the productivity of our workers. The institution of a time management system for our employees is a further step that we are now prepared to discuss during upcoming negotiations.

Actions Taken Based on Citizens Advisory Committee

  • Reduction of overtime expenses through the rescheduling of certain building cleaning functions and limiting non-essential security checks in buildings during weekends and over holidays.
  • Continuation of a wage freeze for all non-union hourly employees.
  • Prior reduction in administrative personnel assigned to supervise departmental instruction.

Message from Dr. Jeffrey Korostoff:

For the past five years, the City School District of New Rochelle, like so many local school districts in New York State, has endured the damaging effects of a weakened national economy. Over 200 positions have been lost and valuable educational programs and services have been either reduced or eliminated. Each year, it seemed as if the Board of Education and district and school administrators were faced with a Morton’s Fork where there were only undesirable options. Foundation aid from the state was essentially frozen, mandated costs continued to increase, and a 2% tax levy spending cap was imposed. Faced with these challenges, our District was required to determine which positions, programs and services could be targeted without compromising the quality of core activities associated with our central mission-- the advancement of teaching and learning.

This evening, our administration is presenting to the community a preliminary budget for the 2014-15 school year which offers much more in the way of hope and promise. While our District has not yet turned the corner in difficult financial times, we do believe that the pendulum is poised to begin an upward movement. This is what was anticipated and announced a year ago, and most all of our financial projections and planning have proven to be accurate.

The purpose of any school district’s budget is to strike a balance between everything that we would like to provide for our children in a public educational setting and the community’s willingness and ability to support such a spending plan. For the past two years, the residents of New Rochelle have been very clear and consistent in stating what they regard as their highest priorities in shaping a District budget. Our residents would like to see: current staffing levels maintained; present educational programs continued; favorable class size preserved, especially in our elementary schools; and an enduring commitment to keeping our schools safe and secure. We believe that this preliminary budget, which the administration would characterize as a “maintenance budget,” is responsive to all of these interests.

While we are not yet at the point where personnel restorations are possible, this budget maintains all current positions and, with five undesignated teacher positions included, affords the District the capacity to respond to future needs based on unanticipated enrollment increases. With the return of stable staffing levels, should priorities or needs change within individual schools, principals always retain the ability to redeploy their personnel resources in a manner which responds to these shifts. The maintenance of our full range of educational programs should assure families that the rich and challenging course of study which they envisioned for their children will be in place during the upcoming year and no last minute compromises or adjustments will be necessary. From the earliest stages of the budget development process, central administration has worked hand-in-hand with the elementary school principals to establish and monitor favorable class size. All projections have been drawn from anticipated enrollment figures reviewed and confirmed by individual school principals. We recognize that these numbers, as projections, are fluid, but there is an interest shared by all stakeholders in maintaining a personalized learning environment for our students. Toward this end, our Pre-K classes will all have registers of 18 children. For Grades K to 5, we are seeking to keep these numbers in the low twenty range with a threshold of 25 students. At the middle and high school levels, we project classes will enroll about 25 students and it is our expressed goal to limit class size to a number no larger than 30 students subject to the challenges posed by the intricacies of scheduling courses in secondary schools.

In an era when schools can no longer be viewed as a safe haven, we continue to dedicate funds to provide for the safety and security of our students and staff. The audit study of our facilities conducted by Vigilant Resources International a year ago yielded a number of recommendations to enhance safety in our schools and this budget includes the financial resources to expand projects such as the keyless entry systems, camera and buzzer visitor identification systems, and the replacement of ground-floor shades on all exterior windows. The ongoing training necessary to provide our District security staff with the capacity to keep our students and staff safe also remains a priority within this budget. The buildings and grounds maintenance portion of this budget continues to be funded at its present level. We are keenly aware of the concerns which have been raised publicly about potential abuse within this sector of our operations. The installation of GPS devices in District vehicles was an initial step in monitoring the productivity of our workers. The institution of a time management system for our employees is a further step that we are now prepared to discuss during upcoming negotiations.

It is also important to note that this budget benefits significantly from the recommendations offered over a two-year period from the Community Advisory Committees which were established. We remain appreciative to the members of these committees who devoted many hours to the review and analysis of our District’s operations and finances. Specific examples of actions taken in response to their recommendations include: the reduction of overtime expenses through the rescheduling of certain building cleaning functions and limiting non-essential security checks in buildings during weekends and over holidays; the continuation of a wage freeze for all non-union hourly employees; and the prior reduction in administrative personnel assigned to supervise departmental instruction.

This budget also includes items which are required by educational law or regulation and some items which are not. Contained within this budget are funds for Pre-K and Kindergarten programs, which are not mandated by law. Monies are allocated for the PAVE program, Advanced Placement courses, the purchase or replacement of educational technology, extended day programs to support struggling learners, and the transportation of resident children to non-public school programs. All of these items are not required of us. But we include these items in this preliminary budget because they are good for children. And we include these items in our budget because we believe it is the right thing to do in order to preserve the fabric of this remarkable and truly diverse community.

As for some of the specific financial aspects of this preliminary budget, the total dollar amount involved is $244,589,925. This would be a budget to budget increase of $5,107,985 or 2.13%. This figure conforms with the allowable amount permitted under the state’s Tax Levy Spending Cap for our school district and, therefore, would only require support from a simple majority of the voters on May 20 to be approved. If passed, this spending plan would result in an estimated preliminary tax rate increase of 2.16%, which is the lowest increase in at least fifteen years.

There is much more to the city of New Rochelle than was evident from a television camera’s view of Rob and Laura Petrie’s living room in the early 1960s. Today, New Rochelle is comprised of rich and poor; black, white, Hispanic and Asian American families; long-term residents and recent immigrants. And what binds everyone together is the common interest in seeking what is best for their children. The role of our public school system is to develop the human capital of this city’s young people. We seek to serve the community by shaping both the minds and values of the over 11,000 students who walk through our schoolhouse doors each day. The most important dynamic in the education of children is the interaction in the classroom between the student and their teacher. This is the focus of our work and it is also the centerpiece of this spending plan. We estimate that over 75% of the dollars in this budget directly support classroom instruction and the provision of related pupil services.

Tonight we offer to the community a spending plan, or perhaps more accurately a student investment plan, which we believe is responsive to the priorities expressed by the residents of this city. It is a budget designed to be both fiscally responsible and adequate to meet the needs of the school community. In the end, it is a plan for allocating precious financial resources, none of which we take for granted, to insure the safety and support the success of our cherished school district and this city’s most valuable resource-- our children.

Screen Shot 2014 03 06 at 7 14 29 PM

BOE 2014 15 Expense Distribution

BOE 2014 15 BUDGET INCREASE

City School District of New Rochelle Preliminary Budget 2014-2015

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