Higher Turnout and Big Margin Passed Byram Hills Budget
Updated May 18, 2016 Byram Hills Central School District’s budget of $89,881,446 passed with a 83.8% pass rate which is the highest margin in Byram Hills budget history. It tops the most recent prior highest voter turnout results from 2013 when the budget passed with a 76.9% pass rate.
There were 882 “yes” votes and 159 “no” votes.
The 981 votes cast are the most votes recorded in recent school budget elections. There were 942 votes cast with an additional 39 absentee and affidavit ballots that equal 981 votes or just under 10% of the 10,000 eligible voters.
Robin Glat, Board of Education President, contributed the support of the school budget to people’s confidence in what the district is doing. She added that there’s a lot of transparency in the process, and with the tax cap, there is not much budget controversy. “The success of our students continue to increase while the BOE has been able to manage the costs with a good perspective on enrollment.”
In addition, she said that the BOE looks at what our kids need to do to move into the future, to consider what kind of jobs there will be out there, and what kind of skills they will need to move in that direction.
The three BOE candidates who ran unopposed were elected. Robin Glat, incumbent BOE President, received 780 votes. Newcomers Mia DiPietro received 812 votes and Lara Stangel received 780 votes. There were 42 write-in votes whose names were not revealed as of 9:15 p.m. on election night.
The two newly elected school board members have younger children. Therefore, the board is comprised of seven people who represent every school in the district as well as including members who don’t have children. Each member serves a three-year term which begins at the first BOE reorganization meeting in July.
School Superintendent Dr. Bill Donohue said this is the highest voter turnout in recent years and the biggest margin in the past 26 years. He also said the budget itself was non controversial with a 0.4 percent tax levy, which is the lowest budget increase that we have seen in 25 years.
But Donohue concluded that the more difficult challenge is the long-term feasibility of maintaining the state mandates.
To enlarge, click chart of projected 2016-17 school budget tax rate changes from Byramhills.org
Byram Hills School Budget and Board of Ed Candidates on the Ballot
May 12, 2016 The Byram Hills School District’s budget vote will be held on Tuesday May 17 from 6:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. at H. C. Crittenden Middle School, 10 MacDonald Avenue, Armonk. The proposed budget for the 2016-17 school year is $89,881,446.
The new budget represents an increase of 1.3% over last year, with a tax levy change of 0.4%.
Also on Tuesday will be an election for three of the seven school board seats. It will fill the vacancies of the expired terms of trustees Robin Glat, Alban Burke, and Joyce Meiklejohn. Burke has served two terms and will not run again; neither will Meiklejohn who likewise is finishing the third year of her second term.
Like Burke and Meiklejohn, Glat is in her sixth year on the school board, ending her second term. In addition, she is currently serving as the president of the Byram Hills Board of Education and is running for re-election for her third three-year term.
Running unopposed to fill Burke's and Meiklejohn's seats are Mia DiPietro and Lara Stangel. Both have been active parents and volunteers for years in the Byram Hills School District.
While DiPietro moved to Armonk in 2008, her husband, Ron, grew up in Armonk. She has been on the board of the Byram Hills Preschool Association (BHPA) since 2011 and has acted as liaison to the Board of Education during her entire term. In addition, she managed the BHPA Facebook page and also served on the BHPA Working Moms Committee for several years.
DiPietro is a talent management systems project manager for Marsh & McLennan Companies. She has participated in the Byram Hills Parent-Teacher-Student Association (PTSA) as a class parent for two of her children, in both Coman Hill and Wampus Schools. She has also been a Girl Scout troop co-leader for her daughter since she was in first grade.
The DiPietros have three children; Rebecca is in 4th Grade, Adam is in 1st Grade, and Sam is in preschool.
Running with Glat and DiPietro is Lara Stangel, a full-time working mom. She has been living in town for 10 years, with her husband, Justin, and their two daughters, Emily who will be entering 6th grade and Ashley who will be entering 4th grade.
Stangel has also served on the Byram Hills Preschool Association, first on their House Tour Committee from 2009 to 2011 and then as vice president of education of the PTSA from 2010 to 2013. Upon completion of those duties, she was named PTSA president from 2013 to 2015, serving as the liaison to the Byram Hills Education Foundation (BHEF). She was a trustee of the BHEF from 2011 to 2013, and again from 2015 to 2016, where she served on the Grant Committee, the Insta-Grant Committee, and the Gala Committee.
Stangel has also been involved in her daughters' schools. This past year, at Wampus, she chaired the 5th grade play and co-chaired the Memory Book Committee. At Coman Hill, she served as library volunteer coordinator for three years, and volunteered at the school's library from 2009 to 2015. She was also a parent volunteer for Project Create from 2012 to 2015 and has also been a substitute teacher in the district.
As PTSA president, she established its Advocacy Committee, the purpose of which is to inform and help mobilize the community about educational reform and to instruct how to navigate changes that directly impact the Byram Hills School District.
Her professional career was as a psychiatric social worker, having received a Bachelor of Arts from Brooklyn College in 1992 and a Masters degree in Social Work from Columbia University in 1994. She also received an advanced degree in clinical social work from New York University in 1999.
Since moving here in 2006, Stangel said, “I have devoted my time to raising my two daughters and to help keep Byram Hills the academic paragon it is." Working with and helping the administration, faculty, parents and most important, the children of this district, she concludes, "I look forward to continuing my service as a member of the Byram Hills Board of Education, which would be an absolute honor.”
Byram Hills Proposed 1.3% School Budget Increase
March 6, 2016 The Byram Hills Administration presented its proposed 2016-2017 School Budget of $89,881,446 to the community and the Board of Education (BOE) at the BOE meeting on March 1.
The budget is a 1.3 percent year-to-year increase over last year’s 2015-2016 budget of $88,689,957. This 1.3 percent is not the tax rate increase. The tax rate increase will be discussed at the next BOE meeting on March 15.
“In these economic times, we are aware that staying under the Property Tax Cap Levy is important. This budget does achieve this,” said Bill Donohue, Byram Hills School District Superintendent.
Scott Levy, BOE member, presented the administrator’s budget guidelines. Every year their foremost goal is to maintain the quality of education and opportunities to benefit all students throughout the district from Kindergarten through 12th Grade.
Two BOE public hearings, on March 15 and March 22, will follow the initial meeting of the administration’s proposed budget. They will be the only meetings in which the community can comment on any additions or cuts to the school budget which will be considered by the BOE. The BOE will then adopt the budget on April 26. The public’s budget vote takes place on May 17.
Last year, of the 16,000 registered voters, only slightly over 1,000 residents cast votes, said Dr. Donohue. “Our goal is to make you well-informed voters in the hope that you will actually become active in this political process.”
The five-year revenue and expense criteria from many sources were thoroughly considered in the budget process. This included an analysis of data from income and expenses, debt services, investments, and supplier quotes from prior years. Also, this year’s budget is projected on the needs of the school district’s transportation facility and replacement of the district’s capital equipment.
This year’s budget formulation takes several criteria into account, including the declining student enrollment projections which has seen a slight downward trend since 2011 and is projected to continue to decline over the next five years. From 2011 to 2021, the projections show a reduction of 477 students. The enrollment decline is seen mostly in the high school, said Donohue.
Jen Lamia, Byram Hills Assistant Superintendent, reviewed the impacts of the declining enrollment on staffing next year. Provided the BOE approves the budget, she said, the budget planning indicates there will be a significant net cost savings in the staffing for student’s needs and the resources which are spread across the district’s four school buildings. Three new hired positions have been proposed, while six positions have been eliminated.
Two new, and full-time, special education teaching positions will reduce the money that has been paid to consultants to maintain the rigor and level of curriculum for students with special needs, said Lamia. In addition, the new positions of a network specialist (this is actually a promotion of a Junior Network Specialist) and a computer aide at the middle school, will both support the district’s growth in technology.
The staff reduction will include cutting a full-time substitute teacher at the elementary school level. There will also be a significant reduction of teacher aides, while four aids will be eliminated by retirement this year. In addition, the position of Assistant Director of Facilities has been eliminated since that person has gone to work for another school district as Director of Facilities.
Successful negotiations of labor union contracts last year enabled the 2016-2017 budget to stay under the Tax Levy Cap, said Lamia.
The school district’s negotiated salary increases are as follows:
For reporting purposes, the budget is broken into three components: Programs, Administrative, and Capital, said Greg Carlson, Assistant Superintendent for Business and Management Services. The majority of the school district’s budget costs, 70.2%, remains in Programs for teaching the students, followed by Capital costs at 18%, and then Administrative costs at 11.8%. While the dollar amount of these components grow over the years, the relationship of “these ratios have stayed consistent over the past decade,” said Carlson.
The proposed year-to-year cost of the Program budget is a 2% increase. Carlson’s overview broke down the increases for the $63 million Program expenses as follows: new staff; contractual salary increases; tuition for students with disabilities; installment of computer- assisted instruction with the purchase of up to $.5 million of additional equipment which will be funded over the next five years; additional new club activities with a higher negotiated cost for activities; and funds which were allocated last year for contracts that were not yet negotiated, and then once negotiated, there was a decrease in the employee benefits.
The Capital component of the proposed budget is $16.2 million. There was a 1.5% year-to-year overall decrease in Capital due to debt service which is the most significant expense in this category at $6.28 million, a slight decrease from last year. There is a substantial dollar amount proposed for student furniture, while the operation of the schools saw a slight decrease in cost due to the departure of the Assistant Director. However, there is no change in pupil transportation costs, but there is a decrease in the capital improvement plans of the district’s building assets.
The Administration portion of expenses of the budget is equal to $10.59 million. Year-to-year, there is an overall increase of the Administration budget of 1.8%. This includes items of finances; postage increases; legal fees; materials for new initiatives of the curriculum development; employee benefits; and teacher-contracted professional development in the summer at a higher hourly rate. There was also a decrease in transportation costs with a full-time driver becoming a custodian.
The changes in the increased expense side of the year-to-year budget are mostly driven by the required payments to debt service, contractual health costs, and teachers’ retirement pension costs and employees’ retirement systems, which are compliant with the Federal and State mandates, said Carlson.
For 2016 - 2017, the projected total costs for the teachers’ and employees’ retirement systems is $6.15 million. The district’s hospital, medical and dental health insurance premiums cost for 2016 - 2017 is in excess of $10 million.
The district’s current debt is over $6 million. This debt is partially paid off from the Insurance Reserves and the General Fund. As the debt is paid off, the debt amount owed is trending down. Then the amount of debt will become manageable over a period of time, said Carlson, who showed the 2020 projection when the debt will eventually be paid down to zero. But “in all likelihood, we will borrow before it is totally exhausted,” he added.
Further discussions of the school district’s revenue projections, expectations of the reserved funds to balance the budget in order to keep it under the Tax Cap, and the estimated tax rate increase will take place over the next two BOE meetings.