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Chappaqua to Put Forward Revised Tax Cap-Compliant School Budget on June 18

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Superintendent of Schools Dr. Christine Ackerman said surveys showed strong support for additional school resource officers (SROs) but there was clear pushback from a strong majority of voters.

Chappaqua school officials intend to present a revised budget to district voters that adheres to the tax cap on June 18 after Tuesday’s stunning lopsided rejection of its $141.8 million spending plan.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Christine Ackerman said Wednesday evening that despite community surveys conducted by the district that showed strong support for having additional school resource officers (SROs), there was clear pushback against it from a strong majority of the more than 3,100 residents who voted.

The budget, which carried a 2.99 percent tax levy increase, about $1.4 million over the 1.81 percent maximum, failed Tuesday with 64 percent of the voters against it (2,006-1,128).

Ackerman said she recommends presenting a budget that is tax cap-compliant without the three additional SROs, which would have placed an officer in each of the district’s six schools every day. The administration and board will need to find the $1.4 million in savings, with more than $500,000 of that sum likely to be removed for the additional SROs for next year.

“But moving forward with additional police officers, I don’t think it makes sense,” Ackerman said. “I feel like the community as a whole gave us absolute clarity on that issue.”

A work session to revise the budget for a second vote has been scheduled for next Wednesday at noon at the Horace Greeley High School commons. After that, the board will adopt the updated budget on June 3 and hold a public hearing on June 11. A second vote will be on Tuesday, June 18.

Another option for the district would be to go to a contingency budget, but that would require no levy increase over the current year.

On Thursday, residents are expected to receive another survey via e-mail to help provide the district with feedback in advance of the May 29 work session, said Board of Education President Hilary Grasso.

Grasso said that the decisiveness of the results was surprising given the conclusions of the previous surveys. She said there were many residents who voiced their opinion who hadn’t made their feelings known publicly.

“Whichever way you voted (Tuesday), you did it out of the care and concern for our children and our schools,” Grasso said.

“I believe in our team, and while this is not the outcome I hoped for, the community has spoken and we will regroup and we will come out stronger for it,” she added.

Board member Alissa Dorfman said she concluded that the overwhelming budget defeat was a combination of some voters not wanting to go over the tax cap under any circumstance, while others didn’t want to exceed the cap for SROs. Some may not have wanted the district to have any officers in schools, she said.

“Surveys did not paint a complete picture,” Dorfman said. “We heard from people who felt very strongly for and against but didn’t hear from the huge middle swath of our community. We need to find another way to get a sense of everyone’s opinion.”

But board Vice President Cailee Hwang, who was re-elected Tuesday and was also the lone board member to disagree with the budget, said the board should also exercise its own judgment and not rely as heavily on surveys.

“The community is telling us to do better,” Hwang said. “We have been given another chance. I am confident that my board and I, with the administration, can figure out a way to get back on track and move us forward.”

Two residents at Wednesday evening’s meeting told the board to not assume that the main reason for the budget’s defeat was the extra SROs. One of the residents, Matthew Parker, said it may also be an erosion of trust between the public and the district.

“Trust has to be rebuilt,” he said. “Because anything that we put forth, tax cap-compliant or not, I think you’re still going to get pushback.”

Ackerman indicated that she would like to find a way to maintain the three additional elementary school teachers to support having smaller class sizes that was also included in the defeated budget.





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