At the March 10 Rye City School Board of Education meeting, Assistant Superintendent for Business Gabriella O’Connor presented an alternative budget requested by board members the week before.
By Sarah Varney
At the March 10 Rye City School Board of Education meeting, Assistant Superintendent for Business Gabriella O’Connor presented an alternative budget requested by board members the week before. That tax-cap-compliant alternative budget assumes a 1.62 percent allowable increase in the tax levy rate vs. a rate of 5.08 percent used in the 2015-2016 recommended budget presented at the March 3 meeting.
By complying with the cap, the District would receive $3,555,448 less from property taxes, but still use $1,500,000 from their reserve fund. (The fund, currently at $10,499,883 would decrease to $8,999,883.) The result would be a budget of $79,855,475, instead of the recommended $83,410,923.
In order to be compliant and also to avoid using more than $1.5 million from the reserve fund, the District would balance the budget by implementing cost-cutting measures that cut deep into current programs and staffing.
A $3.55 million budget decrease would mean the elimination of 48 full- or part- time employees, including eight elementary school teachers, two teachers at Rye Middle School/High School, the elimination of five FLES (Foreign Language in Elementary Schools) teachers, and two foreign language teachers at RMS/RHS. The high school Writing Mentor program would be eliminated, and kindergarten would not be extended to full day.
Mandarin, French, and Latin would be phased out in the Middle School. At the High School, Beginning Mandarin, French, and Latin would be cut.
Additionally, all Modified and club sports at Rye Middle School would be eliminated.
Overall, the number of children in an elementary school class would increase from its current 20-22. At Midland, three classes would be cut across grades 2, 4 and 5, and two classes at Milton in grades 2 and 3 would go. Osborn, the largest of the three elementary schools, would lose three classes across grades 2, 4 and 5. “We would attempt to keep class sizes at 25, at least in the lower grades,” said Superintendent Dr. Frank Alvarez.
The Superintendent’s higher $83,410, 923 recommendation would require 60% of voters to approve a 5.08% tax increase and override of the property tax cap. The District cited increased enrollments, decreasing state aid, and increased state mandates as some of the reasons for seeking a larger budget increase than usual.
In general, credit-worthy AAA-rated school districts keep a reserve balance of around 10 percent of the total budget. “There isn’t a simple formula [for figuring a reserve balance] but we have a reputation for running a tight ship. There is no set number though,” said Chris Repetto, chairman of the Board’s finance committee.
“We’ve cut muscle. We can’t cut any more and maintain the excellence of the program,” said Board Vice President Katy Keohane Glassberg.
Board member Karen Belanger stressed that the District will try for an override vote just once and that if it doesn’t pass, the issue of full-day kindergarten will not be revisited. “There is only one kick of the can when it comes to this. We’ve lost close to 70 people over the last few years,” she said.
Milton mother Jen Nerrin spoke of her support for the override. “This is scary. To me spending the additional money each month is better than losing 40 percent of the value of my property,” she said. District administrator O’Connor has estimated that most homeowners in Rye will see an increase of about $115 each month.