Katonah-Lewisboro Proposed Budget Cuts Taxes, Adds Full-Day Kindergarten

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Katonah-Lewisboro School Superintendent Michael Jumper gives an overview of the proposed 2014-2015 budget. Photo Credit: Brian Donnelly
Michael Jumper was appointed interim superintendent when Paul Kreutzer resigned in January.
Michael Jumper was appointed interim superintendent when Paul Kreutzer resigned in January. Photo Credit: Brian Donnelly

CROSS RIVER, N.Y.  – On the back of closing Lewisboro Elementary School for the fall 2014 and a change to its health coverage model, the proposed 2014-2015 budget for the Katonah-Lewisboro School District decreases spending by nearly $3.8 million.

The $111.12 million spending plan would reduce taxes for homeowners in three out of the four towns in the school district. The tax rate would drop 11.46 percent to $193.21 per $1,000 of assessed value in Bedford; 5.62 percent to $198.42 per $1,000 of assessed value in North Salem; and 4.81 percent to $120.68 per $1,000 of assessed value.

The tax rate in Lewisboro would rise 1.59 percent to $203.73 per $1,000 of assessed value.

“A budget decrease, or even a zero percent increase, is certainly not typical given the many challenges that public school districts in New York State are currently facing,” Interim School Superintendent Michael Jumper said. “But in our case, given the well-documented challenges of our high per pupil spending, we had the opportunity through recent major initiatives to really reshape our school finance landscape for the long term.”

All three of the district’s labor groups agreed in 2013 to switch their health insurance plans from self-funded to a premium based plan, saving $3.4 million.

The more controversial savings of $1.9 million annually comes from the planned closure of Lewisboro Elementary.

Parents have filed a petition with the state Education Commissioner against the school board, claiming their decision to close the school had no rational basis. 

The third significant source of savings comes from attrition of personnel due to declining enrollment, which amounts to about $1.1 million. The $970,000 cost of implementing full-day kindergarten makes a net savings of $128,000, according to the proposed budget.

Enrollment is projected to drop by 172 students in the fall. While the budget reduces personnel by 4.65 full-time equivalents, class sizes are expected to stay the same and below the class size goal.

The tax levy – total amount of taxes collected from community – would decrease by 3.76 percent to $98.92 million. This is $5.7 million below the allowable tax cap of $104.63 million.

The proposed budget includes two propositions, including the purchase of five 75-passenger school buses, one wheelchair-accessible van, and a 4x4 utility vehicle for $872,500. The other would replace the turf field at John Jay High School and renovate/replacement the school’s track and storm drainage system for $1.62 million. Neither would impact taxes if approved. 

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