In the Schools
Superintendent Kathleen Matusiak’s main goal with this year’s budget was how to decrease spending without directly impacting students.
Assistant Superintendent Jim Reese and Superintendent Kathleen Matusiak
"When people are leaving through retirements and resignations, we’re not filling the jobs. We’re reassigning tasks," she said.
Positions not being filled are in the custodial staff and as well as in the library on the secondary campus, a clerical position in the district office and one teaching position in the music department. With the exception of the music teacher, none of these positions will directly impact the classrooms.
To make up for the lower numbers of staff, Matusiak said tasks would be given to other people. The other music teachers will pick up lessons and music classes, for example. Tasks will be delegated to other people in the custodial and grounds department. But, "some things won’t get done," Matusiak said. "Custodians might empty the waste baskets, vacuum and dust every night. Maybe only the wastebaskets get done every night and the vacuuming and dusting get done every other night. Those are the kind of decisions that would have to be made in a position like that."
Other decisions include reducing three elementary grades by one section, something Matusiak said would have occurred even without the budget constraints. It was a matter of enrollment decline. Because of this decision, teachers from the elementary school will now be moved to the middle school.
Negotiations for teacher’s contracts are under way. Contracts are up this June. So far, only one meeting has taken place. Matusiak said nothing has been discussed with regard to proposals exchanged at the meeting. She was not at liberty to discuss what those proposals are.
Concerning the budget, Assistant Superintendent Jim Reese said the whole budget-to-budget increase was only 1.37%, part of it being salaries. "It’s anticipated salary settlements based on negotiations," he said. But employee benefits are down. Teachers and administrators are expected to contribute 10% to their health plans.
Matusiak is the only person so far who has taken a freeze on her $256,695 a year salary and receives no health insurance. She pays for her own.
Reese said they are over $600,000 in savings, up from last year’s $200,000 because of positions that were either eliminated or left unfilled. "There are several positions that have become vacant this year that we haven’t filled in anticipation of next year and in next year’s budget, we’ve reduced positions across the board," he said.
As a result of the cuts and reductions made, the budget increase is under the contingency budget. "Under the law the contingency budget is 4% of the CPI increased over the current year’s budget," said Reese. "We’re significantly under that right now. Our budget-to-budget increase is 1.37% so we’re significantly under the contingency level." The dollar equivalency would be $2 million, or the 4% increase of the year’s budget. "I think if you look at Westchester County you’ll find the same thing," said Reese. "I think everybody’s coming below what the state would allow us to operate under as a contingency budget."
Matusiak thinks that the board and the entire administrative team have tried to keep the budget as lean as possible to ease the financial burden on taxpayers, and
realizes the concerns that come with making so many cuts. "I think we’re all concerned that the cuts will start to do some significant damage to the progress we’ve made over the last few years," she said. "We’re trying to stay away from direct impact in the classrooms as much as possible."
The School Budget Vote is on May 19.
In the Village
Planning for Irvington’s budget started way back in October with cuts in the 2008-2009 budget implemented and to be carried forward into the next year. The reason was to offset problems in next year’s budget.
"We knew, going back six months ago, that we were going to lose revenues, that we were going to lose property values," said Village Administrator Larry Schopfer. Savings of about $275,000 were found in the current year’s budget to offset the tax rate for next year’s budget.
The board also put forth a challenge by having each department come up with budget cuts of 5%.
"We have those cuts in the budget and we’re really identifying how they impact the public, and choose which ones we want to take or not take," said Village Treasurer Brenda Jeselnik.
Cuts discussed include transferring maintenance responsibility for sidewalks to adjacent property owners. Currently, the village clears the sidewalks during winter, repairs, and rakes leaves off the sides of the sidewalks. "That’s an enormous amount of labor and overtime," said Schopfer. Most Westchester communities do not maintain their own sidewalks. Another cut would be
requiring residents to bag their leaves if they want them picked up, also cutting down on labor costs and overtime.
"It’s important to point out that the departments, when they came back with these budget cuts, did not come back with things that were so outrageous that they knew would be rejected," said Schopfer. "They cut things which they felt were nonessential services."
A good portion of summer help has been eliminated, as has been the Fourth of July Fireworks. The Recreation Department is also eliminating one special event during the year of their choosing, saving about $10,000. The Police Department recommended eliminating the D.A.R.E. program, which costs $12,000 to $15,000 in overtime costs for officers to teach the program in schools.
The entire tentative budget had a decrease of 1.25% — the first time anyone can remember such a thing occurring. This tentative budget includes all cuts.
"As presented, this represents a $63 reduction in the tax bill for village residents," said Schopfer. "Obviously, if it goes up from here it’s going to be a different number, but they still can expect no more than what their bill was last year."