Katonah-Lewisboro school district residents will have an opportunity to vote on district’s $111 million budget proposal on May 17.
The K-L school board adopted the budget during Thursday’s school board meeting along with another $1,225,000 bond proposition for the replacement of six school buses.
The school board approved the budget by a vote of 5 to 1, with board member Peter Treyz placing the lone no vote, and the bus proposition was approved unanimously. Board member Janet Harckham was not present during the budget vote.
“I believe this is a well-crafted budget,” said Michael Gordon, the school board president. “I believe it maintains and, in appropriate places, advances the programming that we offer here in the Katonah Lewisboro school district. I believe that the education of our children is one of the most important targets of investment that we as a community can make.”
The budget proposal represents a 1.59 percent increase from this year’s budget, according to interim schools Superintendent Michael Jumper.
Jumper said some of the biggest drivers in the increase of the budget were retirement contributions and health insurance costs. Retirement contributions are expected to increase by about $1.8 million or 32.22 percent, next year. Health insurance costs are expected to rise by about $1.7 million, or 12.26 percent, next year.
Eve Hundt, a member of the school board, noted that the budget-to-budget increase is less than what the increase would be if the district used a contingency budget. A contingency budget is a restricted spending plan that school budget must use if the community votes down its proposal twice.
The contingency budget cap for this year is 1.92 percent. That means, if the community votes down the district’s budget proposal twice, the most the district could increase its budget from last year’s spending plan by is 1.92 percent.
“The pension contribution that comes to us in the form of a bill from New York state that we must pay…if we took that out of this budget, just the increase in the pension contribution, we would be spending less for the budget,” Hundt said.
However, teacher’s salaries are expected to decrease by a little more than $1 million, or 1.74 percent, in 2011-2012. Jumper said this is due to concessions that were made by the teachers union in a memorandum of agreement that was crafted in December.
Also, Jumper said 16 teachers retired last year and 14 teachers are expected to retire at the end of this year. Those retirements have helped to lower salaries, according to Jumper.
The equivalent of of 13.6 full-time equivalent positions will be cut as a result of the budget. Those cuts include one assistant principal position, two teaching positions, three maintenance and operations positions.
In the elementary school, class sizes for grades 1-3 will be kept to 22 students or fewer, according to Jumper. Art, music, physical education and instrumental music programs will be maintained. Funding will also be added for the development of a new science curriculum and a response-to-intervention teacher.
In the middle school, the team structure for grades 6-8 is being maintained along with guidance counselors and the unified arts program. The current level of intramural, co-curricular and interscholastic athletics is also being maintained.
In the high school, the budget will maintain the visual arts program; rigorous and innovative course offerings; and the current level of co-curricular, intramural, and interscholastic athletics. A new course on film studies will also be added.
The budget also includes funding for stipends for instructional leaders in math, science and instructional technology in grades K-12.
The tax levy for the new budget proposal is $99,783,239, which is 2.98 percent more than this year’s tax levy. The tax levy is the portion of the budget funded through property taxes.
The proposal would increase tax rates by 1.71 percent in Bedford, 5.43 percent in Lewisboro, 7.87 percent in Pound Ridge and 7.33 percent in North Salem.
School bus replacement
The $1,225,000 million bond referendum for the the purchase of school buses is needed because the district’s bus replacement program has been delayed by two years, according to Jumper.
The district wants to purchase six 78-passenger buses, five 28-passenger vans and one wheelchair accessible van.
“We’ve got a fine fleet of buses that are maintained by an absolutely outstanding transportation department, but not even the best mechanics in the world can keep something going that is coming to the end of its useful life,” Gordon said.