Kreutzer Proposes Budget With 1.67 Percent Hike

The $114.8 million plan for Katonah-Lewisboro schools includes staff reductions—mostly enrollment driven—and a $280K increase in school security spending.

Katonah-Lewisboro School District Superintendent Dr. Paul Kreutzer is proposing a budget that carries at least 12 staff reductions and a tax levy increase of 1.5 percent for the 2013-2014 academic year. 

At $114,879,543, the spending plan represents a hike of 1.67 percent—which is in accordance with the 2-percent property tax cap—from last year's total of $112,996,167. 

"With only minor exceptions, our educational programs are intact and in some cases enhanced," Kreutzer said in a letter to the board of education appearing in a budget packet on the district's website.

The body is slated to gather Thursday evening, and next year's financials are on the agenda. Another meeting on the same subject is set for 8:30 a.m. Saturday.

Major driving forces, identified by Kreutzer, behind the proposal include a lack of revenues—officials say expenses outpace them by nearly two to one—as well as rising pension costs and healthcare expenses.

The fact that the district was facing a $2.6 million shortfall at the beginning of the budgetary preparation season didn't help either, the superintendent notes. He also cited piling debt associated with required contributions to post-employment benefits—pension contributions rose by a "staggering" 23 percent this year—and "simply unsustainable" labor contract obligations.

Other items affecting the proposal include unfunded state mandates, curricular enhancements, technology improvements, sustainability programs, energy conservation, facility renovations, safety measures and staffing changes, Kreutzer said.

Staffing, class size

Staff reductions will affect 9.1 full-time equivalents (FTE) in teaching—which are spread across all the schools and will affect a host of subjects—and 2.5 in support staff.

At the elementary level, there's an addition of 0.5 FTE kindergarten teacher and assistant that is enrollment driven. And the state-mandated Response-to-Intervention program is pushing the addition of two related teaching positions at the middle school.

Projected elementary class sizes range from as few as 16-17 students to a maximum of 21-22 students.

The other middle school reductions are primarily related to enrollment and the proposed elimination of the middle school teaming model. The proposal cites high school staff reductions as enrollment and class-size driven.

The budget also calls for eliminating one special education teacher, three special education assistants and one district-wide psycholgist.

The total savings achieved by the staff reductions amounts to about $825,000.

Tax rates

Preliminary tax rates using 2013 equalization rates for individual towns are as follows: Bedford would see an increase of 6.85 percent, North Salem 6.26 and Pound Ridge 5.33, while Lewisboro would see a decrease of 0.37 percent.

D.S. February 28, 2013 at 01:33 PM
I wonder what would happen if the law said there could be no increases in taxes. Do you think our school system would fall apart ? I'm sure they would find a way to cut the waste, to negotiate better with the teachers and life would go on.Year after year after year our taxes go up.......If I said to you , you have up to a dollar to spend, you'd spend as much of that dollar as you could, but if I said, you have no increase this year to spend....you'd find a way to make due......parents and households and property owners do it all the time!
katonah12 February 28, 2013 at 02:06 PM
I am pleased to see that the school district is putting together a responsible budget, however as a Katonah Resident this is the second year in a row my actual school tax bill will increase 6% to 7%, well above the 2%cap due to "Equalization Rates". The assessors in these towns lack transparency and it is time for this system to go, if the school budget is an increase of 1.67%, all towns should see a 1.67% increase.
pauline schneider February 28, 2013 at 03:14 PM
It's great they stayed under the 2% hike cap. Kudos! But it's probably not in our kids' best interests to eliminate a school wide psychologist. These kids need all the help they can get in these emotionally turbulent times. And our social workers and psychologists have their hands full with dealing with all the recent local and not too distant tragedies. I hope our board reconsiders.
D.S. February 28, 2013 at 05:13 PM
pauline I agree that these are trying times, that's why it is up to you as a parent to see that your child gets the help if they need it. I raised my kids....I don't want to help pay to raise yours or anyone elses!
Ryann February 28, 2013 at 05:27 PM
The community needs to scrutinize the legal fee this district pays out. I would like to know how the tab compares to comparable districts?
Joe Malichio February 28, 2013 at 07:16 PM
I second what Deborah said. 100%
D.S. February 28, 2013 at 10:04 PM
The Equalization rates are sooooo unfair.....just because there are people like Martha Stewart who live in our community raising the price of our bottom line average on home prices doesn't mean that the people that live in this community can afford to keep paying 6 and 7% increases
Ryann March 02, 2013 at 07:55 PM
read the comments on the Ledger and learn more.....


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