About 20 community members and three Board of Education trustees showed up for Tuesday night’s 2012-2013 budget input session to share their thoughts on the district’s needs. Since many of the parents in attendance had children enrolled at Clarkstown North High School much of the discussion centered on its maintenance issues. Superintendent Margaret Keller-Cogan said there were no budget figures or documents to share yet.
“We’re in the process of creating a budget draft,” she said.
The district must stay within the state cap of 2 percent. In order to have a budget increase of more than two percent, a super majority of voters in the district, 60 percent, would have to approve the spending plan. Keller-Cogan said she was not aware of any district in the region, including Westchester County that was planning to exceed the cap.
Each building principal submitted a list of items they believe are needed for their schools. The requests number in the hundreds and are being prioritized and an estimated cost is developed for each item.
John LaNave, assistant superintendent of business, facilities and fiscal management, said for example the list for Clarkstown North includes replacing windows and fixing lockers. Keller-Cogan said one of the things they noticed when reviewing the lists was that many of the requests were for ongoing maintenance.
Joan Braunfotel, president of the Clarkstown Council of PTAs, brought up a roof referendum, which was considered in 2011 but the timing was too late in the budget process. Keller-Cogan said the district is looking at a referendum as a possibility.
LaNave said the actual tax cap for the district would probably be 2.1 percent. He said the fixed costs the district has to meet – salaries, health care – exceed the tax cap so the district needs to examine cutting costs in other areas.
“We are looking at things that we can reduce outside the classroom,” said LaNave.
Braunfotel asked what specific areas were being considered for cuts.
“Everything that is not in the classroom is being looked at,” he said. “This is a process. It’s a painful process.”
He said the district will likely have to use some of its undesignated fund balance to avoid cutting programs and close an anticipated budget gap. The undesignated fund balance was $6.7 million at the start of the school year.
Some of the concerns parents raised about Clarkstown North included the need for more security cameras, rotting wood windowsills on the mansion section of the high school, missing door handles and piles of branches and leaves around the campus. Dorothy Atzl said the North PTSA’s fundraising efforts this year have been facility oriented for landscaping and to buy a new sign for the school.
Parents asked about the status of additional and a for North, which were part of this year’s school budget. The superintendent told them the plans for doubling the number of bleachers, adding a press box and refurbishing the concession stand were being worked on.
“We have a final design that we have agreed to,” said Keller-Cogan.
She said she expects the drawing will be sent to the state Education Department in March. Members of the design team are going to the Monroe-Woodbury School District today to look at its field arrangement, which is similar to Clarkstown North. When there is a draft plan, Keller-Cogan said she would schedule a meeting at Clarkstown North to share the design with parents.
Notes from the session will be available on the district’s web site under the 2013 budget listing.