By Sara Dunn
If the Carmel Central School District is to keep spending within the confines dictated by the new state-imposed tax levy cap, all freshman and junior varsity sports programs at Carmel High School will be shuttered for the 2012-2013 school year and potentially further into the future.
While school districts state-wide all are in the midst of drafting their spending plans for next school year, it is believed that the Carmel Central School District is the first to propose cutting student athletics this far up the ladder in the Putnam County and northern Westchester region.
The proposed cuts to student athletic programs also will include all modified sports that were shut down this current school year in order to save on spending.
As was outlined at the Feb. 28 Board of Education meeting, the proposed elimination of student athletics will include the current six freshman teams and 17 junior varsity teams at Carmel High School, including football, boys’ and girls’ basketball, boys’ and girls’ soccer, boys and girls’ lacrosse, volleyball, field hockey, baseball and softball, among others.
The largest savings accrued from shuttering freshman and junior varsity athletics comes from the estimated $70,000 in stipends paid to faculty coaches for overseeing those teams, on top of the estimated $57,000 that was removed from this school year’s spending plan for modified sports coaches at the George Fischer Middle School.
Additional savings will come from not having to fund the purchase of some athletic equipment and supplies, to the tune of an estimated $16,000, and saving another $39,000 now paid to BOCES for participating in the interscholastic sports program.
All told, if the freshman and junior varsity athletic programs are removed from the 2012-2013 schools budget, the district will save a total of $134,894.
As the details of the proposal were being outlined by Assistant Superintendent of Instruction and Personnel Andy Irvin, Board of Education President Richard Kreps interrupted.
“It’s not okay, but continue,” Kreps said.
After the presentation, school board trustee Eric Mittelstadt said that the savings accrued from cutting the two levels of high school athletics were so minimal compared to the estimated $2.3 million deficit in revenues the school district faced in balancing the budget under the constraints of the new tax levy cap and wondered if there wasn’t an alternative.
One alternative — cited by both district officials and members of the Board of Education — would be to override the cap that, by state law, would require 60 percent or more of the school district residents who cast a ballot on the budget to vote “yes” to increase the tax levy above and beyond the estimated two percent cap.
In the override budget option presented by Superintendent Dr. James Ryan, the freshman and varsity athletic programs could be saved, as well as close to a third of the estimated 20 faculty and staff positions proposed for elimination, if the tax levy were raised above the state-mandated cap by an additional $1.1 million.
What impact would exceeding the tax cap at this level have on local homeowners’ wallets?
Dr. Ryan said that for a school district resident with a home assessed at $350,000, they would pay an additional $8.81 per month more than what they would pay in school taxes if the cap were adhered to.
Board of Education Vice President Jennifer Dougherty said that three times over the last seven years, 60 percent or more of district voters cast a “yes” ballot on the budget, and that if enough district residents wanted to see particular student programs remain in the budget, that the possibility was there potentially to do so again in order to override the tax cap.
While the Board of Education intends to focus their next budget discussion on spending for Special Education, operations and maintenance of buildings and facilities, and school and district administrative costs at a meeting scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 13 in the library at Carmel High School, the Board of Education acknowledged that they expected to hear from the parents of students who play on the freshman and junior varsity teams — or who would one day like to — at that meeting.