School budget season is here, and things are looking bleak for Brewster, which is more than "$3 million in the red," according to the board of education president.
The possibility of the Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps program—which involves scores of students at the high school—being cut next year surfaced on Brewster10509, a local email group, Monday.
Patch touched base with two Brewster Central School District officials Monday for comment on budgetary decisions. Here are their responses:
[From Dr. Stephen Jambor, president of the Brewster Board of Education]
After three consecutive years of re-alignments, cost efficiencies and budget cuts to both program and personnel, we are now entering the current budget season over $3 million in the red.
At this point, everything is under review. The governor's campaign against public education has reached the crisis stage. He won his way in to office in part with the promise of a tax cap. He promised us mandate relief and there has been none. In fact, in the process of competing for 'The Race To The Top' Brewster picked up a net loss of $210,000 in this last cycle. The APPR [Annual Professional Performance Review] process has increased costs, work demands and liabilities. The Teachers' Retirement System (TRS) has just notified us that our contribution for next year will increase by 60 percent! The governor's budget included another $800,000 cut in our State Aid. The bitter irony is that over the past few years while our tax revenues sent to Albany have gradually increased, the amount of State aid that is returned has decreased.
Under these terrible circumstances everyone is anxious which translates to both scared and angry. Who could blame them? On behalf of all of us, I'm feeling both hurt and angry! From 2000 through 2010, we built ourselves up to be a quality school district: Academics, performing arts, athletics, NJROTC, etc. It is a crying shame now to see us having to make Solomon-like decisions where the baby will bleed any which way we cut it.
And before someone asks the stock question: 'What about the administrators?', let me answer it. First of all, what administrators? We are already at the minimum for a district this size. Secondly, our Administrators pay rate is at the median for our area. Third, our administrative cost per pupil is about the lowest in the area. And lastly, the central office administrators have already volunteered to freeze their salaries for next year. Over the past five years, no administrative team anywhere in this area has had a lower average yearly 'increase'!
[From Dr. Jane Sandbank, superintendent of schools]
It is very early in the budget process. There will be reductions across the district next year in order to present a budget within the New York State mandated tax levy amount and due to the significant loss of State Aid and increase in pension contributions, new unfunded mandates such as APPR, contractual expenses and other expenses. No final decisions have been made as to where specific reductions will be made. Having said that, it has always been the philosophy of this district to make smaller reductions across the board rather than eliminate an entire program or service in one area. Further, it was the decision of the administration to notify any staff if they might be at risk for losing their position even when it is very early in terms of decision-making. Yes, positions will be eliminated as they have been for the last three years. Reductions will have a more noticeable negative impact on all programs and services that are not required next year. Yes, we always invite the public to meetings where the budget is discussed. The calendar and dates for these meetings are on our website. The board always listens to public opinion and comments but may not always be able to deliver what the public would like since they are entrusted with the fiduciary responsibilities of a budget that is within the tax cap and sensitive to the tax payer. The budget is not adopted until April 16, 2013, which is why we are saying it is very early. A great deal can take place between now and then and there could be changes that will affect our budget both from the State as well as internally. We have never come out with projected reductions in February. Unfortunately, there are also education laws requiring us to reduce staff that have least seniority first. Brewster was hit particularly hard for next year in several budget lines from the governor’s budget, including reductions based on increase of taxpayer income and reallocation of funds from Brewster to districts with higher levels of poverty.
A presentation on "fixed costs" for the 2013-2014 budget is on this evening's agenda for the Board of Education meeting.