CHA-CHING, 2008/2009 School and Village Budgets

Tarrytown

In the Schools

The Tarrytown/Sleepy Hollow Board of Education approved a $60,170,350 budget for the 2008-09 school year at its meeting on April 10.

imagesThis number is up $4,585,700 or 8.25 percent from the previous year.

To sustain this spending plan, school officials need to raise $27,638,791 from Tarrytown residents and $19,591,559 from Sleepy Hollow residents. The disparity between the two Villages is based on the ratables in each community and the formula is determined by the state.

A resident living in the average assessed home would pay $9,419.33 in school taxes, or $627.96 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, an increase of $802.65 in total or $53.51 per $1,000. This is a 9.32 percent increase. In total between the two Villages, the tax rate increase is at 6.3 percent.

If residents believe the total budget is a large increase, they might be surprised to learn that school officials brought the number down by $1.7 million since it was first introduced on March 6. The biggest decrease from March 6 was in the area of salaries, which went from $2.9 million to $2 million.

And where the current numbers stand, Superintendent Dr. Howard Smith was forthcoming about several School Board standards that will be impacted by this budget.

"Class size guidelines have been compromised," Smith said to School Board members at the meeting last week.

Other standards that have been negatively impacted include:

• Appropriate instructional materials and supplies

• Differentiated instruction

• AP course offerings relative to the population size

• K-12 foreign language program

• Clean, well-maintained buildings (staff for this is low relative to the square-footage).

The contingency budget includes another $1.6 million cuts, which would increase elementary school class sizes, eliminate all field trips, reduce teacher assistant positions, reduce after school activities by 25 percent, eliminate elementary band, chorus and orchestra, and would force the district to share principals at John Paulding at Tappan Hill.

Smith said that despite these constraints, the Sleepy Hollow High School has a 94 percent graduation rate and a 92 percent college acceptance rate, 2/3 of which are among the top three tiers.

Going line item by line item, it’s evident that many of the increases are due to state mandates and contractual obligations. Also, there was an increase of $845,000 in debt service, which is partly due to the construction project at the high school. And in special education, the district will pay $6,956,000, an increase of $933,500 from last year.

"It’s an ever-changing landscape with students moving in, moving out," Smith said at the meeting, referring to the special education program.

When residents go to the polls on May 20, they’ll also elect candidates to fill two open seats on the School Board. These seats will be vacated by Sheila Conklin and Marc Kirschner.

Residents have until April 21 to file a petition for election to the School Board. So far, only two people have returned petitions to run for these seats: Katharine Swibold and Michele Gonzalez. Also, Conklin, the Board’s current vice president, has apparently requested a petition, but has not returned it at press time.

In the Village

Tarrytown Village Trustees will vote on a $19.6 million budget at their second public hearing on April 21. In addition, they are set to approve a $2.9 million water fund and $1.5 million library fund.

To sustain the Village’s $19,579,668 spending plan, up 5 percent from the previous year, officials would raise $14,040,168 in taxes. This means that a resident living in an average assessed home of $15,000 would pay $3,527.85 in Village taxes, up $177.30 or 5.29 percent from last year. This is a rate of $235.19 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. On average, an assessed home is 2.99 percent of the actual market value.

"This is the lowest tax increase since 2001-2002," Village Treasurer James Hart wrote in a letter to Mayor Drew Fixell and the Board of Trustees on March 20. "All department heads were instructed to keep discretionary expenses as close as possible to last year’s levels. The mandated retirement costs have stabilized and should be lower in future years. Our health insurance premiums cost has increased slightly, but there was a big cost savings when we revamped our entire health insurance plans."

The biggest whole number increase went to the Police Department – going up $341,367. The largest portion of this, $233,129, is for salary increases. In total, $264,992 has been set aside for overtime payments, an increase of $24,992 from last year.

The largest percentage increase went to settlements, judgments and certioraris, which went from $25,000 to $100,000, a 300 percent increase, but this was compensated by decreasing the contingency line item. Debt service has also increased by $227,722 or 10.8 percent for a total of $2,336,339.

"We have borrowed money to build two new firehouses," Hart said in an interview. He explained that the Village took out a "band," which is a one year bond that can be renewed four times. Using a "band," the Village had the option to pay interest only and hold off paying the principal. Hart said this was done with the expectation that the Ferry Landings construction project would increase the Village ratables in the coming years, keeping the tax rate steady when these projects are paid off.

Hart also pointed to a shared day camp between Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow, saying this arrangement saved the Villages $100,000.

"Which shows the advantages of having two Villages working together," Hart said.

Tarrytown residents living in the average assessed home of $15,000 will likely pay $12,947.18 in combined Village and school taxes, up $979.95 from last year or 8.19 percent. This is a rate of $863.15 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

School taxes go directly to the Town of Greenburgh, which has a slightly different average assessment and equalization rate.

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About the Author: Brett Freeman