2012-2013 Clarkstown School Budget Process In Progress (VIDEO)

District administrators reviewing principals’ lists of needed repairs and items


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.

George C February 09, 2012 at 10:27 PM
I just hope we get a superintendent that does not cost as much as we are paying now. Why do we provide a car allowance, housing allowance, cell phone, life insurance, etc, all to the tune of over 300k per year? Are we getting what we pay for? Also, if it ends up we need to close a school, it will be discussed, in the open, with community feedback.
justsayin122 February 09, 2012 at 10:33 PM
Not surprised that Congers was offered up as the pariah. I am a Congers resident although I no longer have children in the elementary school. Those of you who think closing the school is not a possibility, I urge you to think again. There is another large school in Congers with room to spare that could easily absorb the student population. Get involved now. Although the school board may not have put it on the table yet, the thought has been thrown around. It is an aging building, lacking costly ADA upgrades, in a district with declining enrollment.
BME February 09, 2012 at 11:36 PM
Actually the whole comment thread was not started by Phil-It started by discussing ways to cut costs in the district and increase revenue for the town. What would you expect the new Superintendent's salary to be? The superintendent is the chief executive officer of our large school district. The economy collapsed and Dr KC has been fiscally conservative in my view-certainly more then Dr. Heebink's administration. There haven't been planetariums or non-regulation swimming pool purchased under her tenure. Why the outcry over her car allowance-doesn't she travel for her job-even if it is from school to school-don't people in the sales profession receive travel allowances. Life insurance-don't most employers provide some sort of plan to buy into? What is it that the KC haters want. I was on the parent committee when there was the Super Search- after Dr. Heebink retired. Were any of the KC haters on that committee? Did you see the choices that were out there then..hasn't Nyack and other local districts recently had trouble finding the right match for their district? Getting an appropriate school leader is not as easy as it sounds.
Rachel February 10, 2012 at 12:08 AM
Actually we are getting a great deal with Dr. Keller-Cogan. The Superintendent for the Ramapo Schools (Suffern) makes $335,894 per year, and that district is HALF the size of Clarkstown.
Mike Hirsch February 10, 2012 at 01:39 AM
The Governor of the State of New York makes about $185,000/year. He has gone on record as saying that it doesn't make sense to pay any other public employee more than the CEO. I happen to agree with him. In Clarkstown we have a Police Chief making over $250,000/year after he agreed to take a pay cut. Every town employee with 10 years on the job, whether it be full, or part time, gets free health care for their families for life. At the cost of $20,000/year per family x 1,000 current and retired workers, that equals $20,000,000/year that the town (not the school district) has to pay for health insurance only.
Phil Leiter February 10, 2012 at 05:01 AM
Governor Cuomo is not the CEO of NY, but the head of the Executive branch. While he rails against educators, the Executive branch alone has nearly 1,000 employees earning more than $185K. What’s he doing about that? Due to their arbitrary salary cap, New Jersey is seeing a flight of qualified superintendents who Gov. Christie, of like mind with Cuomo, calls “dead wood”. This apparently includes the 2011 NJ State Superintendent of the Year (going to Hastings-on-Hudson). 25% of NJ’s superintendents are leaving this year though most are still under contract! Bergen County, with the highest cost of living in NJ, had the highest number of openings with 26 out of 74 superintendents leaving this year. I did an analysis on Superintendent salaries in NYS last year. Despite leading the largest school district, Dr. K-C is actually paid less salary, and the average in total compensation compared to the Rockland county average, which itself is lower than any other county in the NYC suburbs. Adjusted for cost of living, Rockland superintendents are paid significantly less than the national average. What qualified candidate will the CCSD attract offering even less compensation?
Tony T February 10, 2012 at 11:34 AM
If this statement is taken at face value" “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.” Then how is this work even being considered: "Parents asked about the status of additional bleachers and a press box 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.
Tony T February 10, 2012 at 11:54 AM
Keller-Cogan makes more than the Governor and Chief Judge of the State of NY now don't you find that absurd. No public employee should make more than the two heads of 2 branches of gov't in NY.
John Foster February 10, 2012 at 01:03 PM
Good luck finding a qualified schlep for under $200k. Even supers upstate, where the cost of living is half of what it is downstate make more than that. I find it interesting that the community requires top notch administrator qualifications but is only willing to stomach a bargain basement salary. Youre not going to get a BMW at a Yugo price. Wake up already and take a good look at the real world outside the borders on Clarkstown, if you believe it exists.
Mike Hirsch February 10, 2012 at 01:47 PM
Thanks for the information Phil. I still think it is lunacy to pay anyone more than the CEO of the State of NY. Look at what the Federal gov't is doing in regards to Freeddie and Fannie. They will now be paying the heads of those organizations a couple of hundred thousand rather than tens of millions as thjey did in the past. When asked if they were worried about finding qualified candidates, they said, "well we paid the other guys $20 million and it didn't work out so well, so no, we're not worried about finding qualified candidates."
Tony T February 10, 2012 at 02:45 PM
John, as you put it the last "BMW" Clarkstown purchased for all the trouble it caused was not worth the money!! I think CCSD can get a more reliable car who needsless maintainance (just look at the perks in her contract) and at a lot less the cost.....
George C February 10, 2012 at 03:20 PM
Phil, it's called supply and demand. If NJ is losing, we just need to pay slightly higher than they were paying to get qualified people. The supply of qualified candidates outweighs the demand. ALL superintendents are paid VERY well and they should take what they can get. It's only a matter of time until NY follows NJ. The taxpayers cannot afford to pay any more. Plus what justified the 300+k salary. The superintendent does not ACTUALLY teach children. I'd rather pay GOOD teachers more and the administration less.
Clarkstown Resident & Parent February 10, 2012 at 03:33 PM
300K+ per year is too much! Sorry but I totally disagree with you on this one! It is just not realistic for the Superintendent to be paid that much is this time of economic challenges that we are all dealing with. Yes I know the BOE clowns have made MKC's tenure carnival ride but 300K + per year is just way too much!
John Foster February 11, 2012 at 04:22 AM
I think you're mistaken. The super isn't causing the problems, it's the board. This is dysfunction junction and Doug, Donna, Phil and Kevin have overstepped their authority as board members. Beyond the turmoil the board has caused, where has the super been delinquent in her duties? Give me facts, not fiction.
Congers Mom February 11, 2012 at 04:38 AM
John, Can you please provide me with specific examples for Doug , Dona, Phil and Kevin as to how they've overstepped their authority as board members. Give me factual examples for each?
BME February 11, 2012 at 12:51 PM
Someone has logged on using my screen name-I have not made some of the comments posted under it-including this one.
The Terminator February 11, 2012 at 01:15 PM
Congers Mom, this is what Katz and his followers do so well. Keep posting about this so everyone sees.
The Terminator February 11, 2012 at 01:18 PM
Why don't you change your screen name to something other than the real "Congers Mom." Do that and I will provide you specific examples as to how they've overstepped heir authority.
jrogers10920 February 11, 2012 at 05:38 PM
Gotta love this stuff! Here comes Phil to the rescue!!! Congers, I'll save you. Wait a minute - aren't Mike Hirsch and Phil DeGaetano buddies? Hey Mike, are you setting up this we are gonna close Congers mass hysteria just so that your pal Phil can be the hero. People don't be fooled. Phil is looking for ways to look good. Phil wants to be reelected. His term is up and the election is this May. There are no plans to close Congers or any other school. What an ugly way to try and win votes by playing a game like this. Mike Hirsch is not on the school board and no way he or any of his other tea drinking buds ever should be. That would be a disaster! His group is the Clarkstown Taxpayers. They worked with the other Concerned Taxpayers to vote down the bond that would have given our school a real gym like all the other elementary schools. Mike denies he did, but he did. Phil worked very hard to make the bond fail. He knew that Congers would get a gym and be made a better and safer school. He did not care. He wanted to make the bond fail and get elected. Tell me what has he done to improve Congers and where are the bleachers at North that Phil promised us last year? I guess all the money went to hire all the lawyers and to look for a new super for the schools. Don't be fooled.Don't fall for this garbage. Congers is not going to be your political pawn.
The Terminator February 11, 2012 at 08:35 PM
I just KNEW there was some reason Phil was out here all of a sudden. The sudden posts and supporters were too much too fast. Of course Congers isn't going to be closed. Nice try, Phil & Company. Thanks Jrogers!
Mike Hirsch February 11, 2012 at 09:41 PM
First of all, let me say that what I post are just my personal opinions and not necessarily the opinions of the Clarkstown Taxpayers. Also, there is no connection between the two taxpayer groups. Our group was just forming when Phil was elected and the bond issue came about. We were not involved in school issues at that time. We were formed in response to the outrageous PBA compensation and benefit packages given to the CPD by our town. We soon learned that that was just the tip of the iceberg and have been exposing the political corruption and cronyism rife in our town politics. I do not personally like the way Phil has conducted himself while being on the board and will not vote for him if he seeks re-election.
jrogers10920 February 11, 2012 at 09:50 PM
Mike, well I am glad to hear that you won't be voting for Phil. But stop saying you think closing Congers is a good idea. You just played it so that now people in Congers think that Phil is a great guy because at the end of the day when people stop playing telephone everyone will think that Phil kept Congers open so everyone should vote for Phil. PEOPLE!!! Congers is not closing!!! Phil was against the bond that would have fixed up Congers. Don't be fooled!!
Mike Hirsch February 11, 2012 at 10:04 PM
Thank you JR. Please read the posts. I never said that closing Congers Elementary is a good idea. I did say that I thought closing one elementary school is a good idea. By the way, I am not a Tea Party guy, nor is the Clarkstown Taxpayers a Tea Party group. The group is simply made up of citizens like you, both Democrats and Republicans, Independents and others, who are frustrated with the political corruption and cronyism rife in our town politics. We have just recently gotten involved with the school board. For more information about what our group has been doing, please log onto our website www.clarkstowntaxpayers.com
Sabina DeGaetano February 11, 2012 at 10:09 PM
jrogers10920 mike and i are not buddies and mike did not support me in my election he did support kevin grogan last election that's his choice as far as my reelection i have not made up my mind and i represent all the people in clarkstown not just congers mike made the comment and i answered so i will repeat as long as i am on the school board congers will stay open . phillip degaetano
Sabina DeGaetano February 11, 2012 at 10:13 PM
to all mike likes to hang his hat anywhere there's a pole he took on our fine police dept then the town board now it's the school board mike if i run please go out there and tell people in this town you don't support me did you ever hear the word landslide phillip degaetano
jrogers10920 February 11, 2012 at 10:31 PM
I still think we are being played. This is just too cute. I'll bet my truck on it. This is how silly rumors get started. All of sudden DeGaetano is blogging. How convenient. Here Phil comes to save the day. We need to keep Phil or Congers closes. What a crock of you know what. Don't be fooled people. Phil is trying to make you think he is the answer and Mike if you aren't his bud (which I still think you are) you sure played right into his hands and gave him a chance to run the rumor mill himself. How do you like your tea?
The Real Mary Smith February 11, 2012 at 11:27 PM
To all in Clarkstown, Phil DeGaetano has come to save the day. Sleep easy tonight, our very own Robin Hood, Phil DeGaetano, is on the case. Congers will not close as long as Phil is on the board. Phil just when we thought it couldn't get any better, you come in to save the day. Wow! An academy award is in your future! Phil, do us a favor and keep Dr. Keller-Cogan!
Sabina DeGaetano February 11, 2012 at 11:33 PM
mary how are you i know you can't come to the meeting's and i understand so i will come to you to discuss issues 708-8294 call me and i will set up a meeting with you phillip degaetano
The Real Mary Smith February 11, 2012 at 11:35 PM
Thank you for your invitation.
Sabina DeGaetano February 11, 2012 at 11:37 PM
mary your welcome will you be calling phillip degaetano


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