December 4, 2008
Dear Community Member:
Given the current national economic crisis and the severe impact upon our state and regional economies, the Chappaqua Board of Education anticipates a challenging budget development process for our 2009-10 school year operating budget. The Board discussed budgetary issues and concerns with Superintendent David Fleishman and district administrators at our November 18 public meeting. We are writing to share information from this meeting with you and to invite you to share your personal perspective on next year's school district budget with us. The budget discussion was videotaped by NCCTV and may be viewed online at www.ncctv.org (video on demand, Chappaqua Central School District album). Community members may share their thoughts with the Board by emailing us at Board@ccsd.ws.
At the November 18 meeting, Superintendent David Fleishman presented some budget history and provided an overview of the current year budget. Over the last several years, budget-to-budget increases have been as high as 10.6% (in 2004), reflecting the costs of increasing enrollment, new debt service from school construction, and rapidly escalating employee benefit costs. Budget increases have since moderated to 5.12% in 2007 and 5.25% in 2008 as enrollment has stabilized and only smaller new program initiatives and capital projects have been undertaken. Dr. Fleishman stated that allowing for contractual and other typical inflationary cost increases, a budget increase in the 5% range is necessary just to sustain the current academic program and district operations in the next school year.
The 2008-09 budget totals $107,347,134. Employee salaries and benefits account for 74%. Other components include transportation (5.5%), debt service (5.1%), operations/maintenance/capital projects (5.0%), contracted special education services (2.8%), and technology (1.8%). The remaining 5.5% is comprised of many smaller spending areas such as equipment and supplies, building budgets based on per pupil allocations, and legal, auditing and other professional services fees.
Dr. Fleishman concluded his presentation with a discussion of the "four pillars" of a school budget - a way of framing how our decisions and policies impact the operating budget. The first pillar is class size. The number of students per classroom drives the number of teachers needed. Our current class size guidelines are 20 students in kindergarten, 23 in first grade, and 25 in grades 3 and up with special provisions to go up to 28 in limited situations. The second pillar is program which includes course offerings, co-curricular activities, support services to students, professional development for staff, and much more. The third pillar is infrastructure which includes buildings and grounds maintenance, capital projects, clerical support, transportation, and technology. The fourth pillar is contractual obligations which refer to the district's four collective bargaining agreements with our teachers, administrators, clerical workers, and custodians.
Immediate budget impact can be achieved through decisions affecting the first three pillars such as increasing/decreasing class size (affects the number of teaching staff needed), adding/cutting a course offering, a professional development program, or an extra-curricular activity, or continuing/deferring new non-essential equipment purchases. Our collective bargaining agreements, the fourth pillar, represent the rates at which our staff are compensated and can only be altered by contractual agreement with our unions.
After the presentation, board members asked questions and shared thoughts and concerns regarding the 2009-10 budget. Each expressed admiration for the strength of our educational program and a desire to maintain the high quality of teaching and learning in our schools. Board members expressed specific concern that a budget-to-budget increase in the 5% historical range was not viable given the economic environment. Several members asked that the administration look at what it would take to prepare a budget with a zero percent increase. Board members shared their thoughts about where within the four pillars budget reductions could be explored.
The administration is currently at work reviewing all aspects of our budget to determine how to reduce our spending while maintaining the excellence that defines the Chappaqua Central School District. The Board anticipates that the Superintendent will present conceptual budget reductions and options at our January 27, 2009 public meeting. While we will undoubtedly be working on budget issues all winter, our current meeting schedule plans for a line-by-line review of the proposed 2009-10 budget beginning at our March 3 meeting. The Board will adopt a budget on April 21 which will be put forth for a community vote on May 19.
The Board welcomes your thoughts and suggestions as we begin this challenging budget development cycle. We invite you to attend our public meetings (schedule, agendas and minutes are posted at www.ccsd.ws) or watch replays on NCCTV or at www.ncctv.org . Please know that while we expect to be faced with very difficult organizational decisions as we direct the budget process, we are fully committed to meeting the educational needs of all of our children.
The Board of Education
Jay Shapiro, President
Jeffrey Mester, Vice President