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Tarrytown Schools Project $1.2 Million Budget Gap

SLEEPY HOLLOW, N.Y. – The Union Free School District of the Tarrytowns is facing a $1.2 million budget gap for the 2012-13 school year as it faces a need for staff increases because of student growth, Superintendent Howard Smith said during Thursday's board of education meeting.

“So in some cases, we're faced with the unenviable prospect of reducing staff in one area more than we might have to just balance the budget because we have to offset that to increase staff in another area that we would deem as sort of a higher priority,” he said.

Smith presented a preliminary report on the upcoming budget and the issues the district will be looking at internally during the next five to six weeks.

“We've only begun to look at these issues,” School Board President B. Joseph Lillis said, noting that a formal budget presentation would take place in March .

The projected deficit is lower than the $1.8 million gap estimated in October because the tax base has grown, which means the district will receive additional funds that are exempted from the 2 percent tax cap, Smith said.

Smith said the district would be working within the tax cap for the overall budget. He said the district would be considering a separation proposition on the ballot asking residents to approve an additional $400,000 to increase the teaching staff. The proposition would require a 60 percent majority vote.

Parent Steve Gosset told the board he felt that instead of having a separate proposition for additional teachers, it could “perhaps look at some other expenditure that could be viewed as discretionary” instead of having “something so important hinge on a supermajority to pass it.”

The school district will be looking at some discretionary spending areas, such as some high school electives, elementary library services, teaching assistant staffing, guidance, social work, psychologist service ratios and bus services, Smith said. The district has ruled out a number of areas for possible cuts as a result of last year's budget discussions.

Retirement continues to be the big issues, Smith said. The district will be looking at amortizing retirement payments for next year, which is expected to save about $440,000.

The district estimates that a certain number of teachers will retire this year, saving approximately $320,000 in total, although he acknowledged the district was being optimistic in that projection.

Other costs in personnel, special education, supplies, utilities and debt service are also expected to increase, although most are not significant. Smith said the district would need to find $440,000 in the budget to close the gap.

“If you're talking about a 2 percent range cap, you see a lot of figures here that are larger than 2 percent,” Smith said. “It gives you a feeling for the challenges that we face.”

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