The Rye City School District superintendent presented a proposed budget last month that would use $2.1 million from the reserve fund to help balance the 2017-2018 budget that calls for a 2.19 percent increase in spending.
While managing to remain under the state-mandated tax cap, the draft budget calls for $86.9 million in spending. The estimated tax levy increase is 2.64 percent.
The reserve fund currently stands at approximately $12.1 million, which is 14 percent of the 2016-2017 school year budget, and is only proposed to be reduced by a percentage point with the use of additional reserves, as outlined by Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian Monahan. The budget will help the school district remain qualified for an Aaa bond rating, which typically calls for a school district’s reserves to be around 10 percent of its total annual budget.
The proposed budget also would preserve all current school programs and add 11.4 positions, including two positions for the English as a New Language program, which offers non-native speakers the opportunity to improve their English language skills, as well as a psychologist to accommodate both regular and special needs students.
Additionally, there are four positions designated for dealing with enrollment to help the school district manage a growing influx of students, and two positions for the art, music, physical education and FLES Spanish programs.
The school district also budgeted for a full-time security position to help manage the growing student body.
“The most important part of this is that the budget maintains all the educational programs while also being tax cap compliant,” said Board of Education President Katy Keohane Glassberg. “That’s what matters most to people.”
Monahan added that with the new budgeted positions, the school district will be able to better handle the growing rate of student enrollment, which has steadily increased since the 2007-2008 school year in which 2,996 students were enrolled in Rye schools. The projected student enrollment for the 2017-2018 year is 3,467.
Monahan said that, while the school district is not anticipating an increase in enrollment come September, the Board of Education is definitely worried that it may escalate in the future.
“That’s always on the superintendent’s mind,” Monahan said. “People tend to move to Rye in the summer, sometimes as late as August, because honestly the schools are so attractive. The additional positions will help deal with those summer enrollment changes.”
He explained that it’s often difficult to prepare for and impossible to project how many students will enroll just before the school year kicks off, but with more help, it would be less of a burden.
According to Glassberg, drafting the budget came with a sense of relief this year with the added help of the Rye community approving the previous 2015-2016 budget that exceeded the 2 percent tax cap, totaling a 4.43 percent override. That budget garnered support of 70 percent of the vote. An override requires a 60 percent majority of the voting public.
“The community has brought us to a place of much greater financial stability and we’re deeply grateful for the community having done that,” she said.
Despite an increase in spending, the school district did not budget any money for capital improvements, according to Sarah Derman, the school district’s chief information officer.
However, Monahan said there is money included in the budget for regular repairs and replacements.
The budget is expected to be adopted by the Board of Education at its April 18 meeting. The adopted budget will then be voted on by the public on May 16.
Since the budget is proposed under the tax cap, it would require only a simple majority of voter approval to pass.