The White Plains Examiner

White Plains Faces $1 Million Budget Gap

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By Sam Barron

The White Plains School District must close a $1 million budget gap if it wants to stay within the new state tax levy cap.

Superintendent Christopher Clouet and Assistant Superintendent for Business Fred Seiler delivered the message at a budget forum held at White Plains High School on Wednesday.

The new property tax levy cap prohibits school districts from increasing the tax levy by more than two percent. If a district wishes to override the cap, 60 percent of voters must approve the override.

The district expects the cap to limit its budget to $189,200,000 and without any cuts, the district’s budget would be $190,200,000.

“The budget is very important,” Clouet said. “It is the biggest budget in the city. It has a big impact on the lives of our kids and the quality of life in the community. We are here in unprecedented times. These are difficult times. The economy is in flux, it’s a difficult situation.”

Much of the meeting was spent explaining the ins and outs of the cap, which was approved and signed into law last year.

“The tax cap will drive how much we spend,” Seiler said. “The tax cap curbs growth, and it doesn’t address expenditures.”

The district has cut 10 percent of its staff in recent years, which could make cutting positions to get under the cap even more difficult. Like most districts and municipalities, the district faces rising health and pension costs.

“The district has operated with prudence and fiscal restraint,” Clouet said. “We work together and take into consideration the economic stresses. We take seriously the generosity of the taxpayers.”

About 20 people attended the meeting, and attendees advocated that White Plains maintain its arts and music programs. Clouet agreed that those programs help build a sense of community.

Clouet said that in a conference call with superintendents in the Sound Shore, none of them were considering overriding the cap. After the meeting, he said it was key to keep the public informed and be as transparent as possible.

“It’s a new day with these rules and regulations,” Clouet said. “It’s good to get the message out early.”

The district, which votes on the budget on May 15, will have forums on March 14 at Post Road Elementary School and March 21 at White Plains High School.



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