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Tarrytown School Officials Discuss 2012-13 Budget

SLEEPY HOLLOW, N.Y. – Projected revenues and expenses for the 2012-13 year under the new property tax cap law give the Union Free School District of the Tarrytowns a $1.8 million deficit if it keeps the status quo, according to Superintendent Howard Smith.

School board officials presented a preliminary look at the 2012-2013 budget and discussed the implications of the property tax cap Thursday night. “Draconian” was the description provided by Board of Education Vice President Vincent Nadile after seeing how the property tax cap would affect the school district's 2012-13 budget.

Smith agreed.

“There's a built-in structural deficit every year based on the cost drivers that are inherent in the budget,” he said. “So every year it puts you in a situation of figuring out what do you do about that?”

Under the new tax cap law, the school district will only be able to raise $1,018,759 more in tax dollars, according to Assistant Superintendent for Business John Staiger, unless 60 percent of the voters approved a higher tax levy.

School administrators will be developing budget proposals through the end of the year. A preliminary budget presentation will take place in January.

The school district will have two chances to get voters to pass a school budget, regardless of whether it tries to get voters to approve a tax increase over two percent. If the district fails to get a budget to pass, it will go to a contingency budget, which no longer contains increases for normal increases in costs.

Smith noted that personnel costs are the district's biggest expense. The district also has some “discretionary” spending areas it is not required to fund, such as class size, library services, sports and high school electives.

Smith said he had already outlined a few discretionary spending areas that the school district could examine for savings: full-day kindergarten, teaching assistants that aren't required, elementary library services, guidance, social work, psychologist service rations and bus services.

What Smith said he doesn't want to do is “bring out the entire list and walk everybody through it.” The school district did that last year and Smith said the community provided very strong feedback as to how it wanted the school to spend its money.

“We've been trimming in all those areas,” he said. “The next thing is to wipe out a sport altogether or wipe out certain things altogether. So that reason I'm not proposing we put everybody through that sort of agony again.”

Smith noted there weren't many areas left to look at and he “wouldn't voluntarily choose any one of the areas here” to trim or cut, but the projected deficit means the school district must consider some.

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