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Chappaqua School Budget Shows Slight Increase

CHAPPAQUA, N.Y. -- The Chappaqua Central School District presented its second smallest budget-to-budget increase in eight years at Tuesday night's board of education meeting.

Coming in at $112,202,888, Superintendent Lyn McKay's proposed budget shows a 0.68 percent increase from 2011-12. Despite the relatively small increase, McKay said students came first in any budget decision and no cost-saving measures were taken as a detriment to education.

"As difficult as these budgets are, with all the cutting that we’ve had to do over the last four years, it is equally important that we continue to build strong programs and we continually improve," McKay said.

McKay stressed the district’s budget is year-to-year and there was no rollover. She said the discussion began in August with a zero-based budgeting process.

While the budget shows an increase of only $754,400, or 0.68 percent, 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.

To make it under the cap, the district cut a net total of 10.64 positions. While 12.8 full-time positions were cut, two core curriculum teachers were added to Seven Bridges Middle School and a part-time Chinese teacher was added to Horace Greeley High School. The cuts bring the district's total to 87.86 since 2009.

Speaking at Tuesday night's meeting, one local resident expressed concern over the affect continual teacher cuts will have on the quality of education, saying all the low-hanging fruit has been cut.

"Costs are rising faster than the tax cap rate, and we are realistically at the point where it’s muscle not fat," said Warren Hart, who is leading up a local finance advisory committee. "You’re not cutting people that are kind of casually mowing the occasional lawn or doing something strange, you’re cutting teachers that are having a meaningful impact on a student’s life."

Hart recommended the board of education look into beginning a political process to put a stop to a wave of unfunded mandates. Hart also suggested the board of education work together with the New Castle Town Board on revenue-increasing solutions.

The district will continue to hold community discussions on almost a weekly basis leading up to April 10, when the board is scheduled to adopt a budget. The next discussion will be held at 7:30 p.m. on March 7 at Robert E. Bell Middle School.

The budget cannot undergo any further change after it is adopted. It will then be put to a public vote on May 15. A complete PDF version of the budget proposal can be viewed on the district's website .

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