The Pleasantville Board of Education approved the district’s $53.8 million budget for 2021-22 last week, providing homeowners with a zero percent tax increase for the second straight year and a tax levy hike of about .6 percent.
The district was able to achieve another flat tax rate by factoring in some of the $623,483 in Foundation Aid, the first part of the state funds owed the district. The remainder of the district’s outstanding Foundation Aid that it is owed is expected from the state in a three-year phase-in: $875,943 in 2022-23 and $876,012 in 2023-24.
To maintain the flat tax rate, $100,000 was added from fund balance.
“Some of the money from the state Foundation Aid will go directly into the budget, which we propose to use to lower the tax levy,” said Tim Whipple, the district’s assistant superintendent for business.
“Every year we have a portion of our total fund balance that we allocate for the specific purpose of maintaining a reasonable tax levy increase for the community,” Whipple added.
The .593 tax levy increase estimates property tax revenue of $38,579,724.
Foundation Aid funds will also go toward hiring two new full-time instructional staffers and one full-time certified teaching assistant. At last week’s board meeting, Superintendent of Schools Mary Fox-Alter said the district already had a blueprint of how to spend the additional money because of guidance from the public, the district’s instructional teams, the board’s goals and Pleasantville’s strategic plan.
“We are certainly looking at instructional enhancements that protect our instructional core but allow us to have more options, more opportunities and to have a greater impact on others,” Fox-Alter said.
Of the two new academic and extended learning support teachers, one will work with students in grades K-4 and the other with grades 5-8. The certified teaching assistant with a bilingual background will help high school English Language Learners.
The Foundation Aid increase to pay for the new positions will add $280,406 to the budget to cover employee salary and benefits. Another $220,845 was added to pay for additional counseling from Student Assistance Services (SAS) five days a week, up from one day a week this year, a full demographic and enrollment study, and middle-school ventilation improvements.
Next year’s proposed budget also includes other program enhancements such as funds to support staff development for teachers during the summer; more summer school opportunities to help close student learning gaps; Tru-Touch Displays in all classrooms; additional portable devices for grades 2-4; and ClassLink software – Single Sign-On technology for multiple applications.
Last week, school officials briefly discussed using the funds for student health and mental services, a summer learning program, an after-school program and an in-depth study of student needs. The monies could also be used to repair and replace HVAC systems and replace about 13 unit ventilators at the middle school.
The decision of how to use the federal funds will be decided by the wider school community and the public at a later time.
The mandatory public hearing on the budget is May 4. followed by the public vote and Board of Education election on May 18.
Area Board of Education Races
Pleasantville will have a contested school board race next month. While President Lawrence Boes will be leaving the board, Vice President Emily Rubin Persons will see re-election. Challengers Michael Busch and Sara Hukkanen will also be on the ballot in the face for two seats.
Other contested races are in Bedford and Chappaqua. Bedford has four candidates for two available seats, including current incumbent Michael Bauscher. Namasha Schelling, Steven Matlin and Robert Mazurek are the challengers. President Collette Dow will be retiring from the board.
In Chappaqua, the candidates are Ellen Exum and Cailee Hwang for one available seat. Vice President Holly McCall is running for New Castle supervisor and will leave the school board.
Mount Pleasant and Byram Hills will see uncontested races. The three incumbents in Mount Pleasant, Michael Griffin, Michael Horan and President Colleen Scaglione Neglia are the only candidates on the ballot for three seats.
Byram Hills incumbent Scott Levy seeks a third term on the board and will be joined on the ballot by Petrie Verma. Incumbent Michael Sanders will not run for re-election.