Budget FAQs

To the Community:

For those of you who have been following our examination of District space/enrollment challenges, it should come as no surprise that the Proposed Budget includes the addition of 20.9 faculty members to address our climbing enrollment so that we can continue to provide quality educational experiences and support all students.

The Proposed Budget results in a projected tax rate increase of 0.67% or 0.09 per $1,000 of assessed valuation which translates to a projected school tax increase of $111 on the average valued home in Mamaroneck.

We know that some of you have had specific questions regarding the Budget and we have provided additional details to those most frequently asked questions in the below Q&A’s.

Before you dive in, we invite you to review our letter, and the letter from Superintendent Dr. Robert Shaps , which together provide an overview of our Proposed Budget -- the financial articulation of our education plan.

If you have other questions after reviewing these materials, please email us at board@mamkschools.org. Please do not forget to vote at your local elementary school on May 15! Click here for information on voter registration.

Respectfully,

The Mamaroneck Board of Education

Budget Development

How is the annual school budget proposal developed?

Reviewing programs and needs, contracts and costs

The work to develop a budget takes place throughout the course of the year and involves District administrators, building principals and Student Support Services staff. The guiding principle in developing the annual budget is to prudently invest and align resources to further District goals and to positively impact student experiences while being fiscally responsible. To this end, District administrators and staff regularly review the needs of individual students and classrooms, enrollment trends and the District’s buildings and grounds.

The Superintendent and the Assistant Superintendent for Business and Operations also review projected revenues and expenditures, including contractual obligations, throughout the year. Click here for the October Board meeting with an update on the District’s budget status.

On March 6, the Superintendent presented an overview of his Recommended Budget. Click here for that presentation. On March 13th and 20th, and April 10th the administration focused on certain components of the Recommended Budget as well as questions and feedback from the Board of Education and the community.

On April 17, the Board approved the Proposed Budget. This is the budget that will be presented to the community for a vote on May 15. Here are links to the April 17 presentation and the budget document.

Additional information, together with the presentations made at each Board meeting, can be found here. Board meetings are also available for viewing on demand from the LMC-TV website.

What happens now that the Board has approved the Proposed Budget?

Registered voters can vote on the Proposed Budget on Tuesday, May 15, at their local elementary schools between 7AM and 9PM.

Click here for information about voter registration and obtaining an absentee ballot. (Click here to download and print an absentee ballot application.)

Click here to see the resolution that will appear on the ballot.

How will this year’s school budget impact my real property taxes?

The school tax increase on the average value home (valued at $1.255M) in Mamaroneck is projected to be $111.

The District advises the Town of Mamaroneck as to the amount of money we need to collect from taxpayers (the tax levy). The Town then collects it for all three municipalities, using the assessed value for each property to determine each taxpayer's property tax.

The Town has advised that the total property valuation has increased, in part as a result of additional properties. This has led to a projected tax rate increase of 0.67% or 0.09 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

If a property's assessment has changed since last year, the change in taxes levied on the property will increase or decrease based on the change in the assessment. Each homeowner can figure out their own projected taxes by taking the projected tax rate of 0.09 per $1,000, multiplying by their property's assessed value, and then dividing by 1,000.

What accounts for school budget increases?

Enrollment, contractual obligations and mandated special education costs drive increases.

Our school budget increases are largely driven by increasing enrollment, State mandated and contractual obligations for employee salaries and benefits, and rising mandated special education costs.

Our greatest resources are our teachers and staff. As with all school districts, the bulk of our Budget increase is related to staffing and contractual obligations. Although several contracts remain unsettled, the District is continuing to observe the terms and conditions of the expired contract, and will continue to do so as required by State law. With the addition of 20.9 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) certified staff positions, budget growth attributable to contractual obligations and mandated pension contributions alone amounts to a $4,189,541 increase over last year’s budget. For additional information on the major components of the Proposed Budget, click here.

Why does the District need to increase the budget by 2.84%?

There is a significant need for increased staffing. The Budget has been growing at a slower rate than the speed at which we are adding students.

Although we have added staff during the past five years, staffing has not kept pace with enrollment. Over the past two years that gap has only widened -- especially at Hommocks and the High School. (See "Historical District Enrollment and Staffing Trends".)

The budget adds staff at the elementary, middle and high school levels. These additions include science, math, social studies and world language teachers at Hommocks and the High School, a Director of English as a New Language (ENL) and Dual Language, elementary teachers and additional aides. This is only a partial listing. A complete list can be found here. Finally, the budget also addresses the growing needs of students in programs administered by Student Support Services.

As Dr. Shaps noted in his budget letter to the community, in order to continue to preserve and invest in our District’s programs and experiences, maintain favorable class size guidelines, and achieve our District goals, we are presenting the community with a budget that exceeds the cap.

What measures have been taken to control spending?

Efficiencies through increased use of technology, cooperative purchasing and outsourcing.

Since 2011-2012, our budget actually decreased twice. We have kept costs down through staff cuts outside the classroom, efficiencies through the use of technology, cooperative purchasing, outsourcing, and by using reserves. We also have saved money by switching from a premium-based health care plan to a self-insured plan.

Since 2011-2012, including this year’s proposed budget, the average annual budget change has been 1.5%. If the District had budgeted to the cap from 2012-2017, we would have collected almost $16 million more from taxpayers.

Enrollment

Is there background Information available regarding the District’s growing enrollment and potential space constraints?

Information is available on the District website.

The Board of Education has been following enrollment trends carefully and discussing them at its televised meetings since December, 2015. See the Enrollment Planning section of District website for more information, including Enrollment FAQs.

Is there enough space in the buildings to accommodate increased enrollment for September, 2018?

At this point in time – Yes.

At the beginning of this school year, our short-term instructional space concerns revolved primarily around two of our elementary schools - Murray and Chatsworth, which are operating at or close to capacity. (For a chart showing K-5 projected room usage for 2017-2021, click here.) However, based on the information we have to date regarding the expected incoming Kindergarten class numbers, it is our belief that our elementary schools have the space to accommodate all students projected to attend in September 2018 -- but just barely. We will continue to work to collect as much household data as possible to further understand enrollment trends in the years to come.

Over the past couple of years, the District has been carefully watching the growing enrollment trends in Mamaroneck Schools. After many years of steady enrollment growth (a 13% increase since 2010), we are projecting a slight decrease in the rate of our enrollment growth from the current school year to the 2018-2019 school year. Our projections show continued enrollment growth over the next several years at all levels of our system. In fact, this year’s senior class at the high school is the last cohort with under 400 students.

Has the District formulated long term plans to address enrollment increases?

The District established a community Task Force to explore longer term planning.

Rising enrollment is both a challenge and an opportunity. The two primary challenges are physical space and financial resources. However, it does provide us with the opportunity to explore these challenges within the broader context of the District’s educational goals and the unfolding transformation of teaching and learning.

The District and Board of Education convened a community-wide task force, which has been charged to study growing enrollment and instructional space limitations as part of our long-term planning. The Task Force is comprised of residents who live in each of the four elementary school zones; it includes parents of elementary and secondary students as well as community members without school-aged children. Our participating educators hail from one of the District elementary schools (Murray), the middle school and the high school. Some of our members are relative newcomers, while others grew up in the community; two members have lived here for 52 years each.

Task Force members have diverse skill sets -- including expertise in quantitative analysis, technology, space planning, financial and legal analysis, communication, education and not-for profit management -- and have enthusiastically delved into their work. Although the Board is charged by law with making decisions about how students are assigned to schools, the Task Force will assist the Board in making informed evaluations of identified strategies.

The Task Force has met a few times since mid-March and will continue its work through December, 2018. It will periodically report on its progress to the broader community.

Staffing

The current 4th Grade cohort has 485 students. Is there enough room for them at Hommocks, and what are the plans to handle the increased number of students?

The Budget funds the addition of 7.3 faculty at Hommocks Middle School. Adjustments in classroom utilization patterns will result in sufficient classroom availability.

The District projects that the student population at Hommocks will increase from 1275 students this school year to more than 1,300 students by 2019. Since 2011, Hommocks enrollment has grown by 15.3% without adding core subject, PE, World Language or special education teachers. As a result, class sizes have consistently grown.

We anticipate having five full academic teams at Hommocks beginning in the 2019-2020 school year. The staff additions funded by this Budget allow for the creation of a half team this year with the second half being added the following year.

For additional information regarding the staffing additions at Hommocks, click here.



Why does the Budget include a Director of ENL and Dual Language Programs?

The number of English language learners is growing along with enrollment.

With increased student enrollment throughout the District, the number of ENL students has also increased. With the expansion of the Dos Caminos dual language program at MAS, which will have classes in grades K-5 starting in the 2018-2019 school year (over 300 students), a dedicated program director to support both ENL and Dos Caminos is essential to propel the programs forward. Dr. Shaps and the Board believe that a dedicated Director can provide the tools and full-time leadership necessary to support ENL students and the Dos Caminos program in the years to come.

What kind of investment in Student Support Services does this Budget represent?

The Proposed Budget addresses the growing needs of students in programs administered by Student Support Services.

The Budget provides the following:

  • -Increased capacity for response to individual student’s socio-emotional needs; and
  • -Full continuum of highly individualized and specialized programs for students with complex disabilities; and
  • -Innovative interventions and programs that have resulted in fewer out-of-district special education placements and generated savings of approximately $400,000.

About one-third of the added teacher/teaching assistant positions fall under Special Education and Student Support Services.

Class Size

Why do some elementary classes sizes vary from what appears in the published Budget documents? How does the District monitor class size?

Class size guidelines sometimes are impacted by the individual cohorts of each grade and school.

Since the implementation of the tax cap levy law in 2011, we have prioritized staffing and resources that are closest to the classroom. Although enrollment is growing, our class size guidelines have not changed in several years. For Central, Chatsworth Avenue and Murray Avenue elementary schools, the guidelines are 22 students for grades K-1, 25 for grades 2-3, and 26 for grades 4-5

Mamaroneck Avenue School has separate class size guidelines, which are slightly lower for all grades, except for the dual language classes in grades K-4, where the guidelines are 24 students. MAS guidelines in the non-dual language classes will match the other 3 schools in grades 2 through 5, but will remain at 19 students for Kindergarten and 21 for grade 1, starting in September 2018.

The Board of Education views the average class enrollment size as “guidelines” and not hard numbers, but we do everything reasonably possible to adhere to class size guidelines prior to the start of the school year.

Individual classes may be higher if, for example, students move to the community after classes have been assigned on August 15. With our neighborhood school model, the actual size of a class in a particular grade in a particular year varies from school to school.

Since 2012-2013 we have added 31 certified teachers, and this year, we are expecting to add two teachers at Chatsworth and one at Mamaroneck Avenue to adhere to class size guidelines. In addition, the Proposed Budget includes two contingency teaching positions to account for the possibility of adding class sections after the Budget has been approved. The Board will review class sizes at a meeting to be scheduled during the 2018-2019 year. All Board of Education meetings are noticed and open to the public.

Budget Miscellaneous

What is the tax cap?

A limit on the funds our District can raise through property taxes with a simple majority vote.

The tax cap is really a tax levy cap -- a cap on the ability of a school district to grow its tax levy (the taxes it collects from its community). The tax cap law, enacted in 2011, provides that a school district can exceed the cap if 60% of the voters approve the "override."

The tax levy cap is based on a formula set by the State. One of the variables in the formula is the Consumer Price Index (CPI) or 2%, whichever is less. For the 2018-2019 budget, the allowable tax levy cap is 2.78% for Mamaroneck after applying the formula. The Proposed Budget is increasing 2.84% over the prior year's budget. That increase in the budget results in a tax levy increase of 3.97%, which requires an override of 60% voter approval to pass.

To see how the tax levy cap was calculated for Mamaroneck, see page six of the April 10th budget presentation.

Can we compare our budget and tax levy increase to other Westchester districts?

The comparison is one of apples and oranges; different districts have different tax levy caps.

Each school district applies the tax levy cap formula to come up with a unique levy limit. For example:

* Ardsley, Edgemont, Harrison and Rye Neck are increasing their budgets by a greater percentage than Mamaroneck (3.39%, 3.57%, 4.2%, 3.13%, respectively) but their tax levy increases do not exceed their caps.

* Ardsley, Irvington and Hastings-on-Hudson are exceeding Mamaroneck's tax levy percent change (4.7%, 4.24%, 5.54%, respectively), but they are not exceeding the cap for their districts and so do not need an override vote.

Does exceeding the tax levy cap impact my STAR rebate?

Qualified taxpayers will still get STAR rebates but will not get the property tax relief credit.

Exceeding the tax levy cap does not have an impact on either of the STAR programs (Basic or Enhanced). If you qualify for a STAR rebate, you will still receive one. Since the District is exceeding the cap, homeowners will not be eligible for the State's property tax relief credit.

What is the NY State property tax relief credit?

The Property Tax Relief Credit is available to property owners provided they (a) currently receive STAR, (b) have incomes of $275,000 or less, and (c) reside within a school district which does not exceed its allowable tax levy cap. The property tax relief credit is a percentage of a homeowner’s STAR benefit, with lower incomes receiving a higher percentage benefit and the benefit reduced to zero for households with income over $275,000. For more information, see the State's property tax relief webpage.

What happens if the Proposed Budget does not pass?

After two failed votes, the District must make deep cuts.

If the Proposed Budget does not pass by a 60% vote, the Board can decide to put the budget back out to the voters at the same amount (which also would require a 60% override), an increased amount or a decreased amount, or the Board can go directly to a contingent budget (sometimes called an austerity budget).

To budget to the 2.78% tax levy cap, the District would need to decrease the Proposed Budget by $1.44 million.

If the budget fails twice, then the District would be forced to go to a contingent budget, which would mean the District could not increase the tax levy from the 2017-2018 dollar amount. For Mamaroneck, this would require a decrease of more than $4.78 million from the Proposed Budget. The District would still maintain its contractual obligations, including those to employees under the collective bargaining agreements.

A reduction in the school budget could result in some or all of the following:

* Instructional staff cuts (cuts required to comply with a contingent budget would be equal to approximately 50 full-time positions)

* Class size increases

* Reduced or eliminated electives, music and art, advanced classes and foreign

language options and other non-mandated programs

* Cuts to sports programs, clubs and other extracurricular programs