Total Projected School Tax Levy is Lowered by 3.76% From Current Year
The Katonah-Lewisboro School District Administration presented the Superintendent’s recommended 2014-15 budget to the public on February 27. This budget of $111,123,460 results in a spending decrease of nearly $3.8 million from the current $114,879,543 budget -- a rarity in today’s tax cap environment. Additionally, the proposed budget includes the implementation of full-day kindergarten, preservation of programs and courses, and maintenance of desirable class sizes, as well as added staffing in certain areas where necessary.
The projected tax levy is $98,920,738, a decrease of 3.76% from that of the current school year. It has been offset partly by the continued allocation of $2,700,000 from the District’s current fund balance and surplus. Furthermore, this tax levy is $5.7 million lower than the District’s calculated 2014-15 New York State tax levy cap limit of $104,633,938.
“A budget decrease, or even a 0% increase, is certainly not typical given the many challenges that public school districts in New York State are currently facing,” stated Interim Superintendent of Schools Mr. Michael Jumper. “But in our case, given the well-documented challenges of our high per pupil spending, we had the opportunity through recent major initiatives to really reshape our school finance landscape for the long term. Very careful planning went into preparing this recommended budget.”
The budget-to-budget decrease from 2013-14 to 2014-15 was realized by addressing significant legacy issues. The District’s transition from a self-funded health insurance plan to one that is premium-based accounts for the greatest amount of savings by reducing budgeted expenses more than $3.4 million. The closure of Lewisboro Elementary School, which was approved by the Board in January, results in a recurring savings totaling $1.9 million. Additionally, continued attrition associated with declining student enrollment lowers costs by approximately $1.1 million.
Enrollment has steadily declined and is expected to continue on that path. Districtwide projections reveal a drop from 3374 students currently to 3202 in September 2014 -- a difference of 172 students. With this in mind, staff reductions will be made in some areas and increases will be made in others. Class sizes will remain similar to what they are now, and for most grades, will continue to be below goal. Full-day kindergarten will include nine sections with classes not to exceed 20 students.
Another significant positive impact to this year’s budget is the recently negotiated teacher’s contract, which includes structural modifications that helped to mitigate increases associated with salaries and benefits.
Retirement system costs continue to comprise over 9.4% of the entire budget. Other budget increases include debt service, special education out-of-district placements, and operations and maintenance projects. At the same time, the District anticipates a 5.09% increase in State Aid, which helps to offset the local taxpayers’ obligation with regard to the budget.
The recommended budget includes two additional propositions for the Board to consider. One calls for the transfer of $872,500 from the general fund to the capital fund for the purchase of five 75-passenger school buses, one wheelchair-accessible van, and a 4x4 utility vehicle. The other would authorize the transfer of $1,620,000 from the general fund to the capital fund for the replacement of the turf field at John Jay High School as well as renovation/replacement of the school’s track and storm drainage system. Neither of these propositions will impact taxes if approved.
The budget vote and Board of Education election will be held on Tuesday, May 20. More information will be provided in the coming weeks and months, and all updates will be posted on the District’s website, www.klschooldistrict.org