News from the Peekskill City School District on a community budget forum held last Saturday on the proposed budget. School officials are faced with a $2 million budget gap.
The Peekskill City School District held a Community Budget Forum on Saturday morning to present their proposed budget for the 2013-2014 school year. At the meeting, members of the community, parents, and teachers gathered in the Peekskill Middle School cafeteria to meet with Central Office Administrators, Board of Education members and Building Principals for over three hours to discuss ideas on how the district might cut costs as they move forward in the budget process while still providing exceptional service to Peekskill students.
“We’re looking for your ideas,” Peekskill Superintendent, Jim Willis told the crowd. “Whether it involves programs, staffing, or anything else; there are no restrictions. We’re just here to brainstorm today.”
Assistant Superintendent for Business and Administrative Services, Gregory Sullivan, began the meeting with a PowerPoint presentation that aimed to break down the District’s proposed budget for the 2013-14 school year. He also took the time to explain the District’s revenues and expenditures, and provided a Tax Levy Worksheet for reference as well.
The proposed 2013-14 budget will see a 6.9% increase, which translates to an additional cost of $5,137,668 from the 2012-13 school year budget. After considering revenues minus expenditures the District is facing the difficulty of closing a $2,051,247 gap this year.
“The question is how do we do that?” Sullivan asked the crowd. “We have more work to do, obviously.”
Sullivan also pointed out in his presentation that there is a Tax Levy increase of 3.5% this year, which translates to $1,278,662.
After Sullivan’s presentation those in attendance broke into work groups to trade ideas on ways to help the District close the two million dollar gap.
Popular suggestions from the crowd included acquiring a grant writer for the District, eliminating overtime for District employees, hiring part-time staff, and moving toward more technology based programs to reduce staffing costs.
“I know the easy way to cut costs is to cut people, but then you are going to have to cut programs,” said Superintendent, Jim Willis. “We can cut overtime, but I can tell you, some things won’t get done.”
Others in the crowd suggested focusing more on early education resources now will help cut costs by reducing the need for additional academic support in the future.
“We have full-day Pre-K and half-day Pre-K,” noted Superintendent Willis. “Many districts don’t have Pre-K and if they do, it’s only half-day. We could cut Pre-K, but the question is, what would we be losing in return?”
Peekskill resident, Sol Miranda suggested turning to the community and parents to establish a volunteer base to help with the District’s needs pending that volunteers would be willing to undergo the standard requirements for working with school children, such as fingerprinting and background checks.
“We have many professionals in our community who I’m sure would be happy to help,” Miranda said. “Many of these people are bi-lingual. For example, if we need additional ESL teachers, we could reach out to parents and community members to read to the children.”
“As a Board we need to hear from the community on this matter,” said Peekskill’s Board of Education President, Joe Urbanowicz. “We need to provide the education our kids need to compete in a global world, but we need to be efficient in providing this quality education.”
The District has established a Budget Hotline to hear more ideas and input from the public on this matter. Community members are encouraged to call 914-737-3300 ext. 300, and leave a message with their thoughts. The ideas will be collected and discussed again at the next Board of Education Meeting on March 19, which will take place at 7:00 p.m. in the Administration Building located at 1031 Elm Street.
To learn more about the educational challenges the District is facing in the wake of reduced state aid and government mandates you may read the New York State School Board Association’s 2013 Reform Agenda.