The Rye City Board of Education unanimously approved the District’s requested $73,580,000 school budget for 2012-13 at its April 18 meeting. Rye voters will be asked to approve the budget on May 15. Under this budget, the estimated tax rate change is 1.75%, which is in line with the state’s new tax cap limit of 2%. The 2011-2012 budget resulted in a tax rate change of 2.61%.
By Sarah Varney
The Rye City Board of Education unanimously approved the District’s requested $73,580,000 school budget for 2012-13 at its April 18 meeting. Rye voters will be asked to approve the budget on May 15.
Under this budget, the estimated tax rate change is 1.75%, which is in line with the state’s new tax cap limit of 2%. The 2011-2012 budget resulted in a tax rate change of 2.61%.
Schools Superintendent Dr. Edward Shine made a short presentation detailing some changes to the April 3 proposed budget of $73,584,000, including finalized cuts to several secretarial and clerical positions, a librarian, and computer aides. Two full-time secretarial positions and two full-time computer aids were cut. The District was able to eliminate the librarian position due to attrition. Retiring librarian Jo Alyce Newgaard, a 20-year veteran, vehemently questioned the elimination of her position. According to Newgaard, 414 students use the library each day. “How do you justify cutting the staff by half when the number of students using the library has doubled?”, she asked.
The budget includes the addition of two full-time teachers that will allow the District to maintain current class size guidelines of 18-22 at the elementary level. Milton School PTO president Margaret Mead took the podium to express parent concerns over class sizes at the first-grade level next year. Two of the current Milton kindergarten classes are at 23.
Before the vote to approve the budget for the public vote, several school employees made last- minute pleas to the Board to save the librarian and secretary positions. Middle School language arts teacher Craig Dreves reminded board members that personnel, not “things”, should be the priority for the District.
Ironically, board members themselves engaged in last-minute hand wringing over several line items in the budget. It started when parent and former School Board member Robert Zahm, with budget in hand, pointed out that, “there are still a bunch of items in this budget with zero actual expenditures over multiple years.” Zahm’s contention is that the District’s budgets are overly conservative and set aside unneeded funds for certain line items. “I don’t think the community can bear this level of conservatism,” he said. “We’ve said that if we continue to operate under the tax cap and without mandate relief we will hit a wall. What we don’t have is a shared sense of urgency in this matter,” Zahm added.
Echoing this concern, board member Edward Fox questioned several line items, including the necessity of putting aside $24,000 for the purchase of a new truck and budgeting approximately $50,000 per year for communications.
Board member Josh Nathan vigorously defended the retention of budgeted funds for communications and public relations tasks. “We’ve seen what happens when we don’t do a good job communicating to the public,” he said, referring to the defeat of the school bond in December of last year.