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District Reveals Administrative Changes, Potential Contingency Cuts

School officials also offered a primer on the difference between the tax levy and tax rates.

When a community votes down a school budget, radical cutbacks from reduced arts to slashed sports usually follow the requisite finger pointing.

But on June 3, Katonah-Lewisboro district officials presented the board of education's revised $109 million spending plan that hopes to stave off that possibility. This plan offers a more modest spending increase of 1.36 percent—less than half of the 2.98 percent increase defeated by voters on May 18—that reflects over $1.75 million in reductions from the first budget. 

Voters will weigh in with a new vote on June 15. 

the board decided to cut a teacher supervisor position, left to the district's discretion. Here's what the administrative cut will bring:

Elementary school parents who feared their school would be sharing a Teacher on Special Assignment, or TOSA, exhaled when Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Alice Cronin said the cut would come from the middle school.

The high school will retain its three assistant principals, but the middle school will be left with two, following the retirement of Assistant Principal Silvana Maloney, and the reassignment of Gilbert Cass to Lewisboro Elementary School. Monica Bermiss, current LES assistant principal, will join John Hurley as the second middle school AP.

That change is strategic, Cronin told Patch. Bermiss will benefit from Hurley's training and experience before he retires next year. While Kass has not announced plans to retire, he is also a senior administrator—the move decreases the risk of two successive retirements in the same building, and helps the district build capacity for the future, she said.

Katonah Elementary and Lewisboro Elementary schools will retain their assistant principal positions; Increase Miller and Meadow Pond will have TOSA's to support their principal. The district plans to eventually convert the assistant principal positions to teacher supervisors.

Cronin said the district is already actively planning on how to deal with the ramifications of the board's decision to accelerate the district's plan for reducing administrative staff.

The challenges will be in the day-to-day impact on families and children, said Cronin. Things just crop up, she said, from dealing with student conflict to academic concerns from parents. They're identifying ways to better handle teacher evaluations, which may only be conducted by a licensed administrator, such as Cronin, and certified administrators in special departments may conduct district-wide evaluations to ease the burden on principals.

The principals are meeting this week to iron out some details, Cronin said. "We want everyone to think positive and put their best foot forward—we knew it was coming—it's just coming faster."

For a detailed breakdown of the new budget, read it here on Patch, posted with this story.

For previously discussed budget reductions, click here.

The state mandated budget hearing is on June 8 at 7:30 p.m. in the Katonah Elementary School cafeteria.

Tax information

The presentation also featured a timely primer on the difference between a tax rate and a tax levy, a common point of confusion, said board member Eve Hundt.

The overall tax levy increase, which is the total amount of money to be raised through property taxes to support the budget, results from subtracting all aid, revenues, and fund balance appropriations from the total expenditures, Assistant Superintendent for Business Michael Jumper said. Under the proposed budget the levy is set at 1.86 percent.

Tax rates, which are used to determine how much each taxpayer must contribute to the tax levy, are listed in terms of what the rate is per $1,000 of assessed property value. Once the levy is established, the board has little control over the tax rates, which are a factor of the value a town assessor has placed on an individual's property and the state equalization rates, said Jumper.

Tax rates are finalized in late summer but are projected to increase by 7.45 percent in Bedford, 1.22 percent in Lewisboro, and .56 percent in Pound Ridge. The tax rate will drop in North Salem by 2.75 percent. "I'm not sure if people realize the board has no control over the rate, which fluctuates year-to-year," said Hundt.

In 2009-10, Bedford's tax rate decreased by 1.42 percent, while Lewisboro and North Salem increased by 2.03 percent; Pound Ridge increased by 1.58 percent.

Potential Contingency Cuts

If the budget is defeated on June 15, a contingency budget, developed by the administration with input from the board, will be adopted.

In a contingency situation, the district's spending can only increase from the previous school year by the lesser of two ways, said Jumper. That can either be limited to 4 percent of the budget, or the product of multiplying 120 and the national consumer price index for the previous calendar year. For 2009 the CPI was negative, meaning the district would have to use zero percent CPI, he said.

Certain expenses are exempt, such as debt service and tax certiorari judgements; others are restricted—there can be no equipment purchased unless it's for health and safety reasons, said Jumper.

The contingency for this year is set at $107,679,070, and would require an additional $1.6 million in cuts.

The proposals were drawn from previous budget discussions going back as early as Feburary, said Superintendent Robert Roelle. Middle School teams could get the axe, cutting 3.6 teachers in grades 7 and 8, for a savings of $287,049; elementary music and art instruction may be reduced and the special education chairperson could be eliminated, along with a secondary guidance counselor.

The board may also decide to cut sixth grade world language, at a savings of $135,636, or eliminate another TOSA. Also up for consideration is the elimination of all modified sports sports teams, the community use of school facilities, additional capital improvement costs and library reference materials.

Roelle stressed that the cuts he presented were possible reductions, not actual decisions.

Eds. note: Gilbert Cass was incorrectly spelled as Kass. We regret the error.

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