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Tarrytown School Budget 'In Better Shape' This Year

SLEEPY HOLLOW, N.Y. – A preliminary look at the 2013 to 2014 budget for the Public Schools of the Tarrytowns shows the district is in better shape than last year, but it will need to address staffing needs in some way, officials said.

“We're starting off in a good place, but we also have fewer arrows in our quiver,” School Board President B. Joseph Lillis said.

Officials began a preliminary look at next year's budget during Thursday's Board of Education meeting. The district will continue to develop budget proposals over the winter. Another preliminary budget proposal will take place in January, with an official budget proposed in March and adopted in April. Residents will vote on the 2013 to 2014 budget in May.

The district is projecting a status quo budget increase between 2 and 3 percent to $68.7 million that would fall within the tax cap, Superintendent Howard Smith said. The 2012 to 2013 budget totaled $66.8 million, which was about $337,000 under the tax cap. School officials said that money can be applied to next year's budget.

Retirement costs are an unexpected killer this year, Smith said. The district expects they will rise by 22 percent and said there's no way to decrease that figure because it's set by the teacher retirement system.

“We felt that going into next year that it would be plateaued,” he said. “It's not.”

Enrollment growth will be an issue going forward and has budgetary implications in terms of staffing, Smith said.

“You cannot hit your tax cap and have staff increases without staff reductions,” he said.

The district has already identified several potential needs for new staff because of mandates and class size guidelines that would add an additional $850,000 to the budget. Smith noted two potential staff reductions to offset new staff costs: a social worker and having one teaching assistant per two teachers in kindergarten.

Although the staff reductions are not being proposed at the moment, parents at the meeting said they did not like the idea of reducing teaching assistants in kindergarten.

“That's an extraordinarily poor choice,” parent John Payne said.

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