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Pearl River Schools Facing Budget Challenges

The Pearl River School District made decisions with the 2013-14 budget with an eye toward avoiding cuts in personnel while staying under the state mandated tax cap in the coming years.

Pearl River Director of Operations Quinton Van Wynen said he still believes the district can reach that goal with the 2014-15 budget despite the possibility of receiving less state aid than they had hoped and dealing with a lower cap.

"When we made some tough decisions last year, we made them believing we could get a couple of years without having to let people go a couple of years without having to let people go and being able to manage within the cap limits, but still deliver the full program to our students. I still think we will be able to do that. It became more challenging for this year with these two pieces of income not rising to the level we were looking for."

Van Wynen made what he called a table setting presentation regarding the 2014-15 budget at Thursday's board of education meeting, though he said  the numbers involved are still changing. 

Pearl River got a better look at what state financial aid it might be getting when Gov. Andrew Cuomo released his proposed 2014-15 state budget Tuesday. Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee was among those who were critical of the proposal because they feel it does not include enough of an increase in money going to schools. Read more about that here

"It looked like a $164,000 increase (for Pearl River), but really it's about $89,000, which is about one percent," Van Wynen said. "Our costs go up between three and four percent. With state aid not matching that increase, it creates a challenge."

The budget proposal still has to go through the state legislature, so that number could change. 

"We haven't heard from the Senate and the Assembly yet," Van Wynen said. "We have people on both sides trying to make adjustments to the state aid numbers. Hopefully, we will see a higher level for ourselves than what is currently in there."

The state's tax levy cap can be no higher than two percent, but it can be lower based on the cost of living. Van Wynen said as of right now, the tax cap would be 1.46 percent.

"The tax levy based on cost of living is 1.46 percent, which will cost us another $280,000 from our original estimate," Van Wynen said. "We will find out for sure in about two weeks. It looks like we're not getting as much as we thought, so those are two pieces of bad news we have to figure in."

The district's debt service cost will actually come down by approximately $300,000 for 2014-15. Van Wynen said that led to a discussion of possibly bonding to pay for capital improvements in the district.

"Is it time to start looking at what is required? The answer, of course, is yes," Van Wynen said. "We have 60-year-old facilities that need to be constantly looked after. But for the coming year, that line in the budget will drop."

He added that district contributions to employee benefits will increase again, but not as dramatically in recent years. He said he hoped to have a preliminary number for the 2014-15 budget to the board of education by the end of February. The public will vote on the budget May 20. 

There are likely to be at least three items on the ballot that day. The Board of Education seat currently held by Tom DePrisco will be up for election. There is also the matter the apartment building the district acquired along with its current administrative office building on Crooked Hill Road. The district plan is to sell it as individual condo units, which would have to be approved by the voters. 

"We hope to have the approvals from Albany so we can put that to a vote in May," Van Wynen said.
Mike January 25, 2014 at 09:35 AM
Again, no mention of administrator salaries, including Mr. Van Wynen's own. Maybe the PRSD should take its cue from our newly elected County Supervisor who has just announced cuts in his own administration. With Morgano leaving, I think the BOE should carefully look at each administrator and department in the central office and each and ever position should be justified and if needed create new job descriptions and merge roles. I suspect the workload by administrators in that building is quite minuscule as well as not terrible effective. Put the savings into the teacher salaries and programs for the children.
Kelly Garrett January 27, 2014 at 03:39 PM
It is such a shame to cut Freshman sports for the budgets' sake. What are these kids supposed to do after school? These kids look forward to these programs and in many cases, work hard academically to make the team. Academically, programs are being cut left and right all for the sake of these highly paid administrators. Cut the fat from the offices and give it back to the kids. Better programs is the reason we moved here.
Mike January 27, 2014 at 07:07 PM
Better programs at PRSD no longer exist. At best, it is an average school district with little help for students who need services.

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