Rye City School District ▪ 411 Theodore Fremd Ave Suite 100S, Rye, NY 10580 ▪ (914) 967-6100 

 Board Notes  


2013-2014 Board of Edu
Laura Slack, President ▪ Katy Keohane Glassberg, VP  
Karen Belanger ▪ Edward M. Fox ▪ Nancy Pasquale ▪ Chris Repetto ▪ Nicole Weber

A Summary of the 3/25/14 Rye City School District Board of Education Meeting


Open Topics Forum
A budget hearing was held in the form of an open topics forum, during which Board Members joined members of the public and discussed District-related topics in small groups. The Board Members then returned to their seats and summarized the conversations and points that were raised. A report including responses from the District will be distributed within the next two weeks. 
Superintendent's Report 
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Frank Alvarez provided a report to the Board of Education and community. He announced that focus groups will be held regarding the Midland principal search and parents will be receiving more information. He also shared that he would be leading a focus group for students to hear their input. Dr. Alvarez announced that a meeting about the Algebra Regents will be held for parents of eighth-grade and high school algebra students on April 10 at 7 p.m. in the RMS Multipurpose Room, led by Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Dr. Betty Ann Wyks, Rye High School Principal Patricia Taylor, Rye Middle School Principal Dr. Ann Edwards, and Rye High School Assistant Principal Ellen McDonnell. He additionally mentioned a Rye Youth Council meeting that was held on March 26. 

Dr. Alvarez concluded his report by highlighting two student achievements, congratulating Rye High School freshman Caroline Neaves for being named All American for Squash, and senior Cal Hynson for earning the Lions Club Athlete of the Month honor. 
Board of Education President Laura Slack announced that the Board of Education accepted the retirement of Milton School teacher aide Ellen Slater, providing some background information. Mrs. Slater was hired in 2004 as a substitute teacher before becoming a special education teacher aide. In 2005, she was appointed as a full-time teacher aide. In this capacity she has provided outstanding support to the students and teachers she worked with in the classrooms, also supervising children during lunch and recess. Additionally, Mrs. Slater has participated on Milton's Character Education Committee and School Excellence Team. She herself is a Rye High School graduate and previously served as President of Milton's PTO. On behalf of the Board, Mrs. Slack wished her a happy retirement and thanked her for contributing to so many students' elementary school experiences. 
Gifts to the District    
The Board of Education approved two gifts, one from the Nicholas and Christina Raho Foundation and the other from an anonymous donor, totaling $26,000 for Project Lead the Way at Rye High School. Project Lead the Way, which will be launched at the start of the 2014-15 school year, is an initiative designed to expand the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) component of the high school experience, offering students an introduction to the field of engineering through the Pathway to Engineering program. 
Music Curricula Revisions    
The District's Music Department Chair, Shawn Amdur, provided a presentation on elementary, Middle School, and High School Music Curricula Revisions. He noted that the curricula had not been updated since 2000 and was in need of adjustments. Revisions were made over the summer in the areas of Elementary General Music grades 1 & 2, Elementary Chorus grades 4 & 5, Elementary Band grades 4 & 5, Elementary Orchestra grades 4 & 5, Middle School Band, Middle School Orchestra, and High School Orchestra. Music Department staff members received training and formed teams with a K-12 perspective, looking at the continuum of music instruction from it's introductory stages to its later potential as students move through the grade levels. 

Dr. Amdur explained that all units are aligned with the Common Core Learning Standards, and the Music Department's goal has been to meet and exceed all standards. Technology is integrated, and essential questions are a greater focus than they were previously. For example, in addition to knowing how to play a musical piece, students learn more about how the scales and compositions are executed. Dr. Amdur also provided an overview of the essential curriculum components of band, orchestra, and chorus, discussing the types of music studied as well as techniques and skills covered in order for students to develop an understanding of music. 
Superintendent's Recommended 2014-15 Budget   
Dr. Alvarez explained that the Superintendent's Recommended 2014-15 Budget's focus is on maintaining programs; honoring the class size policy; adding a custodian, security guard, and four teachers at the High School; and fulfilling the vision of what the Writing Mentor Program should be. He noted that several of the differences in the line item budget are a result of realignment, as this is the first year that the District is using WinCap financing software, which is described below. 
Assistant Superintendent for Business Gabriella O'Connor provided an updated presentation of the Superintendent's Recommended 2014-15 Budget, which was discussed previously on March 4 and March 11. She reviewed topics including the tax cap calculation process, prior cost saving measures, fund balance, budget drivers, enrollment, the utility tax that is being considered as a means of achieving a tax cap compliant budget, the reallocation of funds in the line item budget, and more. All are summarized as follows:

Tax Cap
Ms. O'Connor reviewed the tax cap calculation process, explaining that the 2014-15 tax cap for the Rye City School District is 1.64%. 

Prior Cost Saving Measures
The District has made a number of cuts in the past, including the reduction of 61.9 staff members since 2009-10 and decrease in reserves by 29%. Several cost saving efficiencies, such as the financing software mentioned, have been implemented this year to better track costs and spending as well as the use of staff time. High School and Middle School schedules were aligned in order to allow flexibility with staffing and improved use of facilities. Throughout the District, roles of department chairs were redefined, staffing was adjusted based on specific student needs, and contractual obligations of staff members were maximized. Mrs. O'Connor noted that the District enters into cost sharing contracts whenever possible, and also takes every opportunity to utilize cooperative bidding at all levels (District, County, and State). 

Fund Balance
Mrs. O'Connor reviewed the fund balance decline year to year, discussing the three major reserve funds that the District has relied most heavily upon: Tax Certiorari reserves, Employees' Retirement System (ERS) reserves, and Undesignated Fund Balance. All of these have dwindled over the years as unfunded State mandates continue to increase in cost.

Budget Drivers Beyond Local Control
There are a number of budget drivers that are beyond the District's control. Mrs. O'Connor explained that mandated pension costs for Employer Retirement Contributions and Health Care Benefits continue to increase significantly in expenditure. Cost drivers also result from a number of other ongoing unfunded legislative mandates, such as the Common Core Learning Standards and Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR). None of these are eligible for exemptions under the tax cap.

The District's enrollment continues to grow, and the tax cap does not allow for exemptions based on enrollment. At the High School, there will be an increase of 144 students over two years, posing the need for more teachers. Districtwide enrollment has increased 20% since 2004. 

Superintendent's Recommended Budget: Options
The Superintendent's recommended 2014-15 budget is $79,470,000, which leaves the District with a shortfall of $3.84 million. The District is looking at two options: A tax cap compliant budget, or an override. The Board of Education and Administration discussed the details of each:
  • Under a tax cap complaint budget, the District would utilize $2.5-$2.8 million from reserves, and could collect an estimated $990,700 by imposing a utility tax. 
  • The District could propose an override for an additional $1.54 million, plus the use of $2.3 million in reserves.                       
Utility Tax, Explained
Mrs. O'Connor explained the method by which utility tax is collected and provided an estimate of how much revenue this would raise. Based on what the City of Rye collects, the District anticipates an annual utility tax revenue of $1,200,000. The projected prorated revenue for 2014-15 would be $990,700. 
The Utility Tax is applicable to the receipts from every sale, other than
sales for resale, of services such as gas, electricity, refrigeration and
steam, and telephone. The tax is collected by the State Tax Commission in the same manner as the state sales tax is collected: the tax appears on the utilities bill, is collected by the utility, and the monies are remitted to the District by the utility.  

Reallocation of Funds
As previously noted, the District implemented new financial tracking software over the summer, improving the management of costs, spending, and staff. The WinCap software will enable more accurate budgeting and reporting. Through this transition, many budget codes have changed and funds have been reallocated to other areas in order to better align with state reporting. As a result, this year's line item budget appears somewhat different from those in the past; for example, technology funds are also included within "Districtwide Support" and the line item labelled "Other" speaks directly to Districtwide instruction. The budget book draft that provides the full line item list will be available in the District Office, located at 411 Theodore Fremd Avenue Suite 100S.      
Budget conversations will continue at the April 8 Board of Education Meeting, and the Board will adopt the proposed budget on April 22.   
Next Regular Meeting
April 8, 2014
8:00 pm 
Rye Middle School    Multipurpose Room

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