All About Armonk

North Castle Daily News

Historic Vote Gap Soundly Passes School Budget

May 22, 2013
Byram Hills residents voted on the school budget for the 2013-2014 school year in the sum of $83,812,094. The budget passed with 779 "yes" votes and 234 "no" votes.

"A 76.9% pass rate is the highest pass rate in Byram Hills' budget history," says Superintendent Dr. Bill Donohue.

All three incumbent board members were re-elected and there were no write in votes. Robin Glat received 782 votes, Joyce Meiklejohn received 766 votes, and Alban Burke received 763 votes.

Brett Summers, President, Board of Education of Byram Hills Central School District said, "I'm privileged to lead the board of such an outstanding District and proud of the overwhelming community support. This budget passed by the largest approval margin in the history of the District. We work very hard to be fiscally prudent and transparent in our Board operations, and believe that both are essential in maintaining the trust and support of the community.

"The Board would also like to acknowledge the outstanding leadership provided by Dr. Donohue and his team of administrators, as well as the partnership and support of our administrators, teachers and employee unions. This community benefits from having such an outstanding school district, and the District is able to maintain its excellent momentum because of the continued support of the community. I pledge to do everything I can to maintain that delicate balance."

Byram Hills Board of Education Proposes 2013-2014 Budget

April 29, 2013
The Byram Hills Board of Education has put forward a budget of $83,812,094 for the 2013-2014 school year. The proposed budget is an increase of 4.2% of expenditures over the 2012-13 budget of $80,423,562. However, Superintendent Dr. Bill Donohue says that the tax levy is actually only $73,368,509 or a 3.5% increase, or $90,000 lower than the maximum allowable tax levy of 3.6%. The difference between the two budget numbers is that lower number reflects the reserves that can be used to bring down the tax levy under New York State Governor Cuomo's tax cap. At the April 9 Budget Hearing IV, Dr. Donohue noted that the school district has well managed its reserve funds, particularly considering the economic difficulties of 2008, and has been drawing down on them in the past few years. Regardless of the way the budget is viewed, it is under the tax cap and therefore requires a majority vote to pass.

The three essential components of the overall budget are the capital, administrative and program budgets. The capital budget is proportioned at 18.5% or $15,493,279, the administrative budget is 12% or $10,059,627, and the education budget for students’ programs makes up the majority of the budget at 69.5% or $58,259,188. Dr. Donohue indicated that of the 610 budget-line items, including teachers' salaries, all but five line items were kept at a 1.2% increase. Teachers’ salaries have been kept at a zero percent increase for this year and the next.

The proposed budget to budget variance has increased $3,388,532. This 4.2% increase is mostly spread across five budget lines: tax claims, security measures, technology infrastructure, and the teachers’ and employee retirement systems.

The most significant increase is the proposition of the teacher and employee retirement system amounts that are mandated by the state. The budget line for teachers' retirement system is $1,422,195 or a 4.06% variance from the year to year budget. The employee retirement system has increased 4.21% to $941, 284.

One of the other larger segments of the $3,388,532 budget to budget increase consists of security measures that equal $360,000 or a 1.93% variance. The Newtown school shooting incident made it necessary for every school district in the country to review and improve its security measures, explained Dr. Donohue. The security staffing and infrastructure are part of the security improvements. If the budget were not to pass, the security improvement measures, among other things, would not be done, Donohue said.

According to Gregory Carlson, Assistant Superintendent, legally, a balanced budget must be presented to the community. The projected estimated revenues are equal to the expenditures of $83,812,094 in the proposed 2013-2014 budget.

The real property tax revenues are 87.5% of the revenue that is $73,68,508, or a 3.5% proposed increase from budget to budget. The Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) is budgeted at $3,524,343, or a 4.6% increase. The estimated state aid may be slightly higher than the $3,050,000 received in the 2012-2013 budget. Combined additional revenue is from Westchester County's sales tax and a modest amount of interest income, recognized as $793,000, with an increase of 32.5%. Carlson indicated that this number may look significant, but the dollar amount is not significant. The proposed Fund Balance appropriation is $3,076,242, that is 3.7% of the revenue, or an increase of 22.7%. This $568,811 over the appropriation from 2012-13 budget is from other fund balance uses, said Carlson.  

The equalization rates [for overall properties in the towns that make up Byram Hills School District] are fixed, but since the final number of assessments are not, the projected tax rates are tentative estimates based upon the latest tax assessables, Carlson continued. “The estimated tax rates vary by town. North Castle makes up the majority of the school budget revenues and according to the numbers we have now, it would translate into a 4.39% increase in tax rate per $1,000 of assessed value.” The increase in the Town of New Castle's projected tax rates is 1.22%, the Town of Bedford's increase is 3.45%, and the increase in the Town of Mt. Pleasant is 1.66%. "This is one of the tightest grouping of rates I've seen in a long time, usually they are swinging wildly between communities."  

Dr. Donahue concluded, “In terms of achievement and success at Byram Hills, we want to be at the top of the County, in terms of true value tax rate, we want to be in the bottom quartile as we have been for 20 years.” The budget includes all programs and services that have been implemented since 1997.

The 2013-2014 school district budget vote will be held on May 21, 2013 at H.C. Crittenden Middle School.

Byram Hills Board of Education Begin School District's Budget Hearings

January 2, 2013
Byram Hills Board of Education (BOE) Budget Hearing meetings will begin on January 8, 2013. The Board says they will continue to plan the district's budget with a fiscal responsibility that meets the educational needs of students.

The Board's goals were adopted in September 2012, and they said they will continue "to develop its knowledge of the legislated tax cap, particularly with consideration for implications to district programs and student services."
The public is welcome to attend the meetings, during which the BOE invites questions and input from the public, within their guidelines. The Board explained, "If you come to the meeting to express a specific concern or request and are reading from a prepared statement, please provide eight copies for the Board members and secretary."

Hard copies of the budget will be available at all the schools, the district office and the North Castle Public Library, for review prior to the meetings.

The meetings will take place at the Byram Hills District Office at 10 Tripp Lane in Armonk. There will be a series of seven meetings to present the budget to the public.

The 2013 meetings are scheduled at 7:30 p.m. on the following dates:
January 8, March 5, March 12, March 19, April 9, April 23 and May 7.
The budget vote will take place on May 21, 2013.

The meetings are also telecast on Bobcat TV on the following days: Sunday 10 a.m.; Monday 8.p.m.; Tuesday 12 noon; Wednesday 5 p.m.; Thursday 8 p.m.; and Friday 4 p.m. 

School Budget Vote

May 15, 2012
The Byram Hills School Budget for the school year of 2012 -2013 passed comfortably with a strong yes vote of 805 over 267 no votes. In a low inflation environment, it is an affirmation that the budget should not rise more than the rate of inflation in the minds of the voters. The approved budget of $80,423,562 represents a 2.2 percent increase over last year's budget, but is within the two percent tax levy cap of a 1.7 percent increase.

As the budget passed, Superintendent Jackie Taylor said is was a true sign of support from the community. She was thrilled with the comfortable passing during her last budget season as the districts supervisor who retires at the end of the school year.  Board of Education President Ira Schulman said, "We think it is a wonderful reflection on the outstanding leadership of Jackie Taylor and the entire central administration."

School Budget Adopted

April 4, 2012
The Byram Hills Board of Education (BOE) has adopted the proposed Administration's budget of $80,423,562 for the 2012-2013 calendar school year. The adopted budget represents a 2.2 percent increase over last year's budget, but is within the two percent tax levy cap of a 1.7 percent increase.

Hundreds of hands devoted hundreds of hours preparing the details of the budget, according to Greg Carlson, Assistant Superintendent. The budget is the result of a coordinated effort of the Byram Hills School District, which consists of the Board of Education; the administrative team of superintendent, deputy and assistant superintendents; building administrators; department chairs; and faculty and support staff, said Carlson.

Superintendent Jackie Taylor said Byram Hills is, fortunately, in an unusual position, compared to other districts in Westchester County; their budget is within the state mandated tax levy cap of two percent, with no reductions of student programs and services.

The budget process presented by Carlson revealed conservative financing to manage the cash flow and to replenish reserves, as reported on the property tax report card. The adjusted restricted, assigned unrestricted and adjusted unrestricted fund balances total $20,291,264.

The majority of the reserved fund balances are approximately $13.8 million, which includes reserves for tax certiorari, unemployment, insurance and retirement contributions. Under the state allowances, four percent of the budget may be placed in unrestricted reserves; this is equivalent to approximately $3.2 million. The assigned, appropriate fund balance by the BOE is approximately $2.2 million, which will be returned next year to reduce taxes.

Tax certiorari proceedings are initiated by taxpayers who challenge property tax assessments, determined by a local assessment review board. Property tax reductions may be awarded for prior years of over-assessment; accordingly, school districts reserve money to be used for refunds in property tax, with interest.

According to the demographer's report, the district's enrollment will drop 1.4 percent from its current enrollment of 2,652 students to a projected enrollment of 2,615 students next year.

The taxpayers of North Castle comprise 86% of the school district. The estimated tax rate for North Castle residents is 0.68% increase. Residents from New Castle, Bedford and Mt. Pleasant make up the remaining 14% of the school district, with respectively a 0.19%, 12.82%, and 8.04% increase in tax rate per $1000 of assessed value.

Ira Schulman, 13-year member of the BOE who currently serves as President, said seven individuals who are members of the Board of Education are responsible for the administration of the school budget, which is an $80 million-a-year business. Schulman said they were able to generate a well-prepared budget, thanks to the board members' diligence, patience and stamina in sorting through a lot of material.

Budget questions can be emailed to

The budget will be proposed to voters on May 15, 2012 from 6:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. at H.C. Crittenden Middle School.

Byram Hills School Budget Proposed

March 12, 2012

Byram Hills Superintendent Jackie Taylor said, "Our patience, resilience and wisdom have been challenged in terms of the state tax levy cap and the Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) for teachers and administrators."  With the help of a collaborative effort from the administration, Taylor proposed the 2012 -2013 school budget of $80,423,562.

The figure represents a 2.2 percent budget-to-budget increase from last year. The proposed budget is a 1.7 percent tax-levy increase, which is a different calculation from the budget-to-budget increase. "The tax levy is the amount of taxes we secure from the community from their property taxes," explained Taylor.  A 1.7 percent tax levy is below the two-percent budget cap mandated by Governor Cuomo for all New York State public schools.

Taylor said the past four-year budget-to-budget increases averaged 1.7 percent. The budget-to-budget increases came in as follows: four years ago: 2.8 percent, three years ago: 2.2 percent increase, two years ago: one percent increase, and last year:  .8 percent increase.

The most important factor in the budget is enrollment, said Assistant Superintendent Bill Donohue. There has been a small, but steady decline in overall enrollment in the district during the period from 2008 through the projected 2015 - 2016 school year. Although enrollment has declined in the elementary schools, middle school enrollment has remained the same, and high school enrollment is expected to continue increasing. High school enrollment is projected to level off by 2013 -2014, and a decline is not anticipated until 2015 - 2016.

The highest percentage of the budget is represented by the district's salaries, health care and state-mandated pensions. The enrollment reductions have led to staff reductions, but no program cuts have been made, said Donohue. He added, "The programs that have been implemented since 1997 are key to why Byram Hills has become one of the best, if not the best, district in the state."

At Coman Hill Elementary School, two second grade teachers and an aide have been eliminated, which represents a savings of almost $350,000. Two fifth grade teachers from Wampus Elementary School have been eliminated, providing savings of about $240,000. Elementary school classes in physical education have reduced a .4 staff position, which will result in savings of about $35,000.  A program aimed at restructuring special-help math classes will eliminate an additional $93,000 at Wampus. These funds will be allocated to a reading specialist at a .2 staff position for $27,000. This year, seven teachers will be retiring, saving an additional $300,000. All staff costs include salaries, as well as medical and pension benefits. The staffing cuts total just over $1 million. Other differences from last year’s budget include special projects, such as the Wampus roof cost of $161,000, $50,000 reduced from garage equipment, the MTA tax savings of $130,000 and the reduction of debt service at $68,000. The staffing and other reductions add up to $1,497,117. Donohue said these are not all the changes, but they represent the most significant examples of this year's budget cuts.

There will also be some enrollment increases, and one new teacher will be hired at Coman Hill at a cost of $140,000 for salary, benefits and pension.  A new program is currently being proposed at the high school that would address the medical needs of students who cannot be placed in regular classrooms. This program necessitates the initial cost of $210,000: a special education teacher at a cost of $105,000 and a psychologist at about the same cost. Donohue said that in the long run this will save money because in the past, these students needed to leave the high school. Typically, the cost of outside special education programs has been an expensive component of the budget. The total staffing increase is $414,265.

Not surprisingly, health insurance costs are increasing and will amount to almost $750,000. The employee retirement system mandated by the state for civil service employees-- not for teachers but for civil service staff--will increase by $460,000. The teachers' retirement system, including contributions to the pension, is also mandated by the state and will increase by $200,000. Another mandated expense is worker's compensation insurance, which increased by $83,000. The mandated increases and the increased costs of staffing total about $1.9 million.

In a collaborative effort to present the school budget, the intention of the Administrators and Board of Education (BOE) is that the "kindergartens coming in get the same education and opportunities that our graduating seniors get, while being fiscally responsible," said Board of Education Robin Glat. The BOE's goal is to maintain the quality of Byram Hills' educational programs and facilities as they evaluate the districts' enrollment projections, staffing needs, and compliances to all the state and federal mandates. The revenues, expenditures, debt services and evaluation of the facilities will be taken into consideration as the BOE reviews the five-year trend analysis.

Glat said the budget will be reviewed in greater detail during the Board of Education's budget hearings on March 13th and March 20th. The public is invited to make suggestions and discuss in greater detail the proposed budget at these meetings.  After the meetings have concluded, the BOE will no longer be able to consider any requests to change the budget; however, they will continue to answer questions pertaining to the subject. The budget will be adopted on April 3rd, and the community vote on the budget will be held at H.C. Crittenden Middle School on May 15th.

Assistant Superintendent for Finance Management Greg Carlson said legally the budget is required to be presented in three components: administrative, program and capital. The program component includes teaching, support and costs associated with providing an education to a student. The program component is 69.1 percent of the budget, with an overall increase of 2.4 percent budget-to-budget. The cost of $22 million represents teaching costs; this amount represents the largest percentage of the $55,593,988 amount of the program component. It is a 1.3 percent decrease from last year's budget, as a result of teaching-staff reductions and retirements. The administrative component includes central and building administration, representing 12.1 percent of the total budget and a 3.7 percent increase. The $15,064,777 capital component represents 18.7 percent of the budget. This is an overall decrease of .8 percent from last year’s budget. The capital component is comprised of the following: debt service ($5,248,000 - a slight decrease), bus purchases, transfer to capital, and operations required for maintenance associated with operating the district's buildings.

Carlson said there is a transfer to capital of $1.26 million for the bus garage project, which will be funded over a four-year period. The plan for next year is the installation of a manual bus wash station and additional site work at the transportation department. If any funds remain due to a soft construction market, the savings would offset future costs. There are also plans to address energy savings, improve parking and renovate office space in the garage project. The other transfer to capital is replacing the boiler at Wampus Elementary School and district energy projects with an estimated cost of $325,000.

Board of Education President Ira Schulman said, "As odd as it may sound, a state law forbids the BOE from encouraging members of the community to vote one way or the other on the budget. This process is our obligation to provide information to the community and explain the reason for the choices that are being made."

Taylor explained that the mission of the collaborative effort is to put our kids' goals first by acknowledging their curiosity, innovation and expression of themselves.

High School Principal Chris Bosari and Jackie Taylor meet with several high school seniors every year to obtain feedback about the students’ experiences in our schools; she emphasized that their responses are candid.
Taylor said, "We want the support of our community. We want Byram Hills to be a place where our community feels their dollars are valued, along with excellent education for their children."

Byram Hills Board of Education
Ira Schulman and his Home on the School Board
By Alice Levine

Dec. 17, 2011
Ira Schulman has been a dedicated, enthusiastic member of the Byram Hills Board of Education for 13 years.

He is currently serving his fourth term as President of the School Board, while his two children have already graduated from Byram Hills High School.

Schulman has always been a fierce proponent of the public education system, which has been an important motivator in his decision to remain on the Board, even after his children started college. He said, “The most important thing we can do for our kids is give them the best possible public education. I feel extremely fortunate that my children received an excellent education at Byram Hills, and I strive as a member of the School Board to insure that our district remains at the top. I'm also a big believer in every child's right to a great public education. At Byram Hills, we also have a very strong Special Education department, and we're very proud of it."

The time commitment required of a School Board member can be significant. In Schulman’s case, his years of experience have helped him get it down to a science. "The number of hours can vary, but the most hours required begin with our work on the school budget, starting in January. It can often mean seven hours a week for an experienced member, to as much as 10 to 15 hours a week for a new member. Having spent almost one quarter of my life on the Board, I generally know what to expect," Schulman said.

When discussing the most important skills for a School Board member, Schulman emphasized, “A member of the Board should have the ability to listen carefully, speak clearly, and work collegially with other members to achieve consensus. He or she should also have a strong belief in the importance of public education. Everything else tends to come with experience."

With the retirement of Superintendent Dr. Jackie Taylor and the promotion of Dr. Bill Donahue, former Assistant Superintendent, to Superintendent comes a new chapter for the School Board. Schulman anticipates a very smooth transition. "Bill Donahue is bright, thoughtful and very articulate. He is truly an exemplar of everything that is right about public education. We will greatly miss Jackie Taylor, who is a paragon of respectful dialogue, but Bill is the perfect choice to provide a seamless transition."

Probably the most publicized topic of concern for the district is the 2% mandatory budget cap on public schools mandated by Governor Cuomo. While Schulman is obviously concerned about the mandate, he feels it is too early to know just what effect it will have on our school district. He commented," First of all, it's important to remember that it doesn't mean we just take last year's budget and add 2%. None of us has enough information on the budget cap yet to know the extent to which it will affect things; however, I can make the commitment that it will not impact class size at any of our schools."

With that in mind, Schulman feels one of the most important goals of the School Board this year is fully understanding the provisions of the budget cap and its impact on our schools. However, priorities for the Board can change rather quickly. “You never know what may be lurking around the corner. You have to be ready to shift your priorities and respond to something that has suddenly become a pressing issue,” Schulman stressed.

So what keeps Schulman excited and always challenged? “I love the constant challenge of delivering excellent education within budgetary confines. We have such a supportive community here at Byram Hills. I want to make sure that we continue to be recognized as one of the top school districts in New York State.”

"We are also so fortunate to provide access to ongoing programs for professional development of teachers. Our teachers do this on their own time, which demonstrates their commitment to constantly advancing themselves as professionals. Jackie Taylor has always been a strong advocate of providing additional training to teachers and administrators. We are so grateful to her for making these programs a priority. In turn, our district reaps the benefits of well-trained, accomplished teachers and administrators, who are always at the top of their game," Schulman said.

Clearly, he has enjoyed many accomplishments in his 13 years on the School Board. Schulman feels that perhaps his greatest achievement with fellow Board members was successfully completing two major expansion programs and renovation of the athletic fields at all the schools. The renovations were completed on time and under budget. "One of the reasons I initially ran for the School Board in 1999 was to offer my experience as an attorney specializing in construction law. This definitely came in handy during our expansion programs," he said.

While there are always challenges and conflicts that arise while serving as a member of the Board, Schulman feels that every member who has served and is currently serving has been both fair and always willing to put the community's and children's best interests first. "We've been so lucky to always have smart, committed and open-minded people on the Byram Hills School Board. We may disagree, but we always leave the meetings on a good note. That makes a big difference. Maybe Congress can learn a lesson from us," he joked.

And finally, what has been Schulman’s favorite experience on the School Board? “I have to say that one of my greatest thrills was having the privilege of speaking at both my son’s and daughter’s graduations, and handing them their diplomas. They were very special moments for me."

For more information on the Byram Hills School Board, visit
Byram Hills School District
Byram Hills School Budget Schedule

Jan. 2, 2013
Administrators' Budget Panel and Budget Hearing I
January 8, 2013 at 7:30PM
Building principals will provide information on the budget building process. The Board will solicit comments from the public on budget concerns.

Presentation of the Administration's Proposed Budget
March 5, 2013 The superintendent will present the administration's proposed budget to the Board and the public. This is an informational meeting. Board and public comment on the proposed budget begin at Budget Hearings II and III.

Budget Hearings II and III
March 12 and 19, 2013
District administrators will make brief presentations, and respond to questions from the Board and the public on specific budget items. This is the appropriate time to request changes to the proposed budget.     

Budget Hearing IV (Budget Workshop)
April 9, 2013
At this meeting, the Board will ask additional questions and consider additions and/or deletions to the budget. New requests cannot be considered at this time, but public comment on agenda items is welcome. The recommended budget will be finalized at this meeting.

Adoption of Budget by the Board of Education
April 23, 2013 The Board formally adopts the budget for submission to the voters on May 21, 2013.    
Property Tax Report Card submitted to SED and distributed to local newspaper of general circulation.

Budget Statement and required attachments available at each school building.

Budget Hearing V
May 7, 2013 (3)
This is a state-mandated meeting at which the Board will present its budget and respond to questions. This meeting will be informational only; changes in the budget may not be made at this time.

Budget Notice must be mailed to eligible voters.

Budget Vote
May 21, 2013
6:30 a.m. - 9 p.m.
H.C. Crittenden Middle School

Byram Hills Board Announces New Superintendent
Oct. 26, 2011

At its meeting last night, the Byram Hills Board of Education announced

the appointment of Deputy Superintendent Dr. William Donohue to replace Superintendent Dr. Jackie Taylor who will retire next June.

Dr. Donohue has been a member of the Byram Hills school community for more than 20 years; he first joined as director of guidance (K-12) in 1990, became principal of the high school in 1997 and was appointed assistant superintendent – later deputy superintendent – in 2008.

A key member of the district’s administrative team, Dr. Donohue has worked closely with Dr. Taylor for the past three years.

 “Bill Donohue is an excellent choice to lead Byram Hills on its continuous journey toward excellence,” said Dr. Taylor. “He is a magnificent leader with great intellect,

byram hills
(L to R) Supervisor Jack Lombardi, Dr. Bill Donahue, Dr. Robert Pavlica and John Chambers (at the time Superintendent of Byram Hills school district). )in an undated photograph at Byram Hills High School.
and he has profound commitment and dedication to Byram Hills. I couldn’t be happier.”

Dr. Donohue’s appointment comes as part of a thoughtful and carefully executed succession plan developed by the board of education over the past decade.

“The board of education is thrilled to appoint Dr. Donohue as its next superintendent,” said school board President Ira Schulman. “Dr. Donohue is a highly respected leader, and a thoughtful, articulate advocate for public education. We look forward to our partnership and maintaining the excellent education for all students provided by Byram Hills.”

As high school principal, Dr. Donohue witnessed the biggest enrollment expansion in the district’s history and was involved in two major construction projects to accommodate it. He oversaw the development of a full elective program, increasing options in every department and creating full opportunities in the Arts for the first time. He also increased the school’s AP options by 100 percent.

Longtime community resident and parent of five Byram Hills graduates, Chris Huguenot considers Dr. Donohue’s appointment as nothing short of “phenomenal.” Mrs. Huguenot has known Dr. Donohue since he first came to Byram Hills. “There’s no finer man in the district,” she said.
“The students of the district have always been the cornerstone of any decision he’s ever made. He’s at his best when the students and families have needed him the most,” she said.

Dr. Donohue has a Bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Maryland, a graduate degree in counseling from George Washington University, another in administration from Harvard, and a doctorate in administration from Columbia. He is a member of the elite Headmasters Association, which limits memberships to 25 public school principals.

“I look at this promotion as both humbling and challenging,” Dr. Donohue said on his appointment. “It will certainly be my primary goal to maintain the academic excellence and strong leadership that have been the hallmark of the district and to help it face the economic challenges that are so apparent today.”