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Chappaqua Schools Talk Curriculum, Sports Budgets

CHAPPAQUA, N.Y. - The Chappaqua Central School District began its month-long breakdown of the 2012-13 budget on Tuesday with a discussion focusing on curriculum and athletics.

"As we move forward, one of the big projects that we’ve already begun work on, and will go even deeper next year, is aligning instructional practices and our units of study with the common core studies that have been adopted by New York State," said Assistant Superintendent Eric Byrne.

Byrne explained to parents and Board of Education members how certain core curriculum changes resulting from new initiatives at the state level will affect the budget. One of the initiatives from the state includes more expository writing, which focuses on argument and persuasion, grammar and conventions, writing across content area.

"There’s some major shifts in some kinds of text that kids should be exposed to from very early ages," said Byrne. "The common core is recommending about a 50/50 balance of informational nonfiction text as well as fiction text."

Another change to the curriculum in 2012-13 is the development of a sixth grade research course and a re-designing of math programs at the middle and high school level.

"It’s a massive project," Byrne said. "There may be topics that will be eliminated or shifted from one grade to the next. That’s what we’re doing in the alignments. We’re learning where it all fits in."

The proposed curriculum budget shows a decrease of $9,423 , from $375,188 to $365,765.

The overall 2012-13 budget shows an increase of $754,400, or 0.68 percent, however, the tax levy increase is larger due a $350,000 reduction in federal aid, a projected enrollment decline of 17 students, increasing teachers and administrators contracts, a 3 percent increase in health insurance premiums, a 2.6 percent increase in the employee retirement system, equalization rates and more.

The projected budget shows a tax levy increase from $98,944,582 to $101,032,134. Despite the $2,087,552 increase, or 2.11 percent, the figures stay within the tax levy cap.

Following Byrne's presentation, Athletic Director Steve Young offered an update on the district's athletic budget. The proposed budget for 2012-13 shows an increase of $30,983, from $1,112,475 to $1,143,458.

According to Young, more than half of the entire high school student body - 60 percent of boys and 54 percent of girls - participated on at least one of the district's 73 teams at a cost of $560 per student in 2011-2012. There was an overall 625 games played with 620 bus trips.

The changes for 2012-13 show a nearly $48,000 increase in athletic director and coaching salaries. The district has a total of 100 coaches and volunteers throughout middle school and high school. Minor cuts were made in laundry, BOCES, equipment and other areas.

With budgetary concerns growing each year, school board member Randy Katchis wondered if New York will ever remove athletics entirely from school district budgets.

"In the future as these kind of budgetary issues get tighter and tighter, I know that relatives in Massachusetts have a pay-to-play," said Katchis. "You want to play, you write a check. That’s just the way it is."

Young said ice hockey is currently the only sport in the district where families must pay out of pocket, but agreed it is possible that certain sports could be forced to do the same in the future.

Tuesday was the first of four budget presentations that will be held in March. Next Tuesday’s presentation at 8:15 p.m. at Horace Greeley High School will focus on special education and technology.

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