Faced with the potential elimination of up to 15 teaching positions, the Mount Pleasant Board of Education is considering whether to exceed the property tax cap in next year’s budget.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Susan Guiney said last week that to maintain the current staff and programs, the property tax levy would need to rise 4.5 percent next year, which would translate into a $381 tax hike for the owner of the average assessed home in the district.
Board of Education President James Grieco said at the board’s Jan. 9 work session that the district should consider presenting a budget to residents in May that would exceed the tax cap to preserve the teaching positions and programs for students. However, that would require approval by at least 60 percent of the voters.
Should the district’s budget fall short of the mandatory 60 percent approval, a second budget could be presented with a lower tax levy, Grieco said.
Trustee Vincent D’Ambroso said he was concerned that a budget exceeding the cap would be defeated by residents who are seeing other taxes go up this year. But Trustee Laurie Donato said it was wrong for the state to impose a tax cap without providing relief from unfunded mandates.
The district has taken a number of steps over the past few years to hold down spending, noted Trustee Francine Aloi
“We’re at the bone,” she said.
Guiney said she and the other administrators would create the proposed budget based on the board’s direction, including whether members wanted to consider going over the cap.
Grieco said he wanted the school board to discuss next year’s budget earlier than it had in past years in order to consider the cap and other critical issues.
Two nights earlier school officials held a budget forum attended by about 40 residents, many of whom filled out questionnaires regarding the 2013-14 budget, said Director of Business Administration Lisa Sanfilippo.
Of the residents who filled out the survey, 73 percent responded that they could support a budget that exceeded the tax cap; 13 percent want the district to adhere to the cap; and 13 percent stated they would not support a budget for next year that included any property tax increase. Sanfilippo stressed that the survey could not be considered scientific because of the small sampling of respondents.
School Safety Measures
Also during last week’s work session, Guiney further outlined steps the district is taking to improve safety following last month’s Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Conn.
Guiney said that throughout this month the district is implementing safety procedures that were planned prior to the shooting. The district is increasing the number of security cameras in the schools and implementing a system where all district employees must swipe an identification card to gain entry into the buildings. Visitors will have to swipe another form of identification, such as a driver’s license, to allow the district to find out if they are listed on the national data base for child molesters and predators.
Guiney said the district is considering allowing the Mount Pleasant Police Department to see video feeds from the school security cameras. In addition, a K-12 Security Committee has been created to make recommendations to enhance safety.
Filed Under: The Examiner