CHAPPAQUA, N.Y. – The Chappaqua Schools Board of Education took the first look at its 2013-14 budget Thursday night. While it was deemed too early in the process to draw any conclusions, the school district could be nearing "unpleasant decisions."
“Tonight is not our proposed budget,” said Chappaqua Schools Superintendent Lyn McKay. “This first look honors all of our current contracts. Moving forward, we need to find a way to be both efficient and effective.”
The first budget outline emphasized factors such as the district's strategic questions, the four pillars of a school budget (class size, programs, infrastructure, contractual obligations) and changes to their operating standards.
If the district's 2013-14 budget was set up to keep services the same as the 2012-13 budget, costs would exceed $117,300,000—which would represent a tax levy increase of 5.3 percent. Such a budget would exceed the state-mandated tax levy cap that is the lesser of 2 percent or inflation.
“Again, tonight’s numbers are simply a placeholder,” said Assistant Superintendent John Chow. “We don’t start with the numbers. We start with questions, operating standards and then decide what adjustments we need to make to meet those district expectations.”
McKay will recommend the first official budget proposal Feb. 27. Next steps from now until then include seeking further savings, resolving unknown variables and finalizing personnel numbers.
“It is a worrisome situation. It is extremely important for us to not stand still and continue to move forward,” said McKay. “It will take all of us working together.”
Board member Victoria Tipp was concerned about the budget’s initial outlook.
“These numbers tonight are if we just tread water. This is without adding anything new,” she said. “That is a tough pill to swallow considering what we might have to do in terms of reductions.”
On a night where no specific reductions where brought up, the reality of making them was.
“If we’re losing personnel, where will we lose it?” asked board member Karen Visser. "It seems like we're getting closer to making decisions that are going to be unpleasant."
Such decisions have not yet been made.
“Right now is a very difficult time,” said McKay. “Previously, we have tightened programs without cutting them. But you can only tighten so much. Now, we’re really tight. We just have to see how it plays out.”