Mount Pleasant Superintendent of Schools Dr. Susan Guiney last week proposed a $58.9 million 2016-17 budget carrying a 4.7 percent tax rate increase that continues to make needed infrastructure improvements throughout the district
Despite the sizeable tax rate increase, the budget, unveiled at the March 9 board of education meeting, is below the tax cap. There would be a $195,606 spending decrease from the current year’s $59.1 million budget because the district is curtailing spending due to a reduction in revenue, primarily because of decreasing tuition for out-of-district special education districts, Guiney said.
Also, state aid is estimated to increase about $65,000, she said.
An average district homeowner with a house assessed at $8,300 would have their school taxes rise $455 next year.
The tax levy would jump by 3.4 percent, but because of a series of complicated calculations, including the growth factor that allows any additional taxes generated in a municipality as a result of new construction not to count toward the cap, Mount Pleasant is under the levy ceiling.
In 2016, Mount Pleasant’s growth factor of 1.0210 is the highest of any school district in Westchester County. Only three other districts in the county – Byram Hills, Rye and Hastings-on-Hudson – have a growth factor at or above 1.01, according to the state Department of Taxation and Finance.
“The (Consumer Price Index) of 0.12 percent is included in the calculation and when the calculation is complete, taking into account the items that can be excluded and included, the district’s cap is the 3.4 percent,” Guiney said. “The sound bite 2 percent or the CPI is really misleading and we, along with the other districts in New York have been saying this since the cap was put into place.”
Director of Business Administration Andrew Lennon said two capital projects included in next year’s budget are the replacement of an elevator at Westlake High School and Westlake Middle School and the purchase of a boiler heating pipe and heating, ventilation and air conditioning upgrades at Columbus Elementary School.
In November 2014 and March 2015, school district residents overwhelmingly defeated multimillion bond issues to pay for infrastructure improvements, which would have permitted the district to borrow to pay for the work at mainly the middle school and high school. Starting this academic year, the district has been focusing on paying for capital projects through the annual budget, Lennon said.
Guiney said the district included infrastructure projects in the 2015-16 budget, such as new lighting and various renovations for Westlake High School gym locker rooms, upgrades for the high school guidance office, a new desk at the high school entrance so staff cam monitor visitors when they enter the building and new boilers at Columbus Elementary School.
Lennon said a major emphasis in the proposed budget’s non-instructional component is security upgrades. The district plans to buy security cameras and radios to be used at the middle school and high school campus and provide additional security personnel for afterschool activities, he said.
At last week’s meeting former district superintendent John Whearty asked school officials if money would be included in next year’s budget to repair the high school auditorium’s leaking ceiling. Guiney said there are no plans to replace the high school roof, but money would be available to continue making repairs to address the leaks.
The instructional portion of the proposed budget will be discussed during this Wednesday’s board of education meeting scheduled for 8 p.m. at the middle school/high school library.
The board is slated to adopt next year’s budget on Apr. 19 with a public hearing scheduled for May 4. The public will vote on the 2016-17 budget on May 17.