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 4/8/14 Rye City School District Board of Education Meeting


Superintendent's Report 
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Frank Alvarez provided a report to the Board of Education and community. He announced the excellent news that Rye High School ranked highly on the Washington Post's list of Most Challenging High Schools! RHS is #2 out of all High Schools in Westchester and is #213 out of over 2,025 schools nationwide. Of the 312 schools ranked in the Northeast, Rye High School is ranked #20, and when looking only at open enrollment schools, it is ranked at #11!  Of the high schools in New York State Rye is ranked #16, and out of open enrollment schools, #10.

Dr. Alvarez also highlighted the RHS Arts Awards Dinner, which recognized 125 students taking three or more arts credits in High School. He additionally provided an update on the Midland School principal search, explaining that interviews have begun and that the District hopes to appoint a new principal in May. He also noted that the responses to the March 25 Open Topics Forum were finalized.  
Board of Education President Laura Slack announced, with sadness and deep gratitude for his service to the District, the retirement of Rye Middle School Assistant Principal Joe DeRuvo.  
Mr.DeRuvo has been a valued member of Rye City Schools since 1969, when he was hired as a teacher at Osborn. In 1990 he moved to Rye Middle School, where he was appointed as a permanent assistant to the principal. Since then, his title changed to Dean of Students, and finally to Assistant Principal. 
"Mr. DeRuvo is a beloved member of our District," Mrs. Slack stated. She highlighted his participation in various school plays and storytelling programs and noted that he has also served as the Middle School representative for the Rye Youth Council Board for 20 years. Last year, Mr. DeRuvo was honored by the Rye Youth Council at an Annual Benefit Gala, during which he was recognized for his many contributions to the children of Rye. On behalf of the Board and Central Administration, Mrs. Slack thanked Mr. DeRuvo for his many years of service, wishing him a happy, healthy retirement. 
Gifts to the District    
The Board of Education approved two gifts: a $4,000 contribution from the Rye Youth Soccer Club for artificial turf field maintenance, and a $5,890 donation from the Midland School PTO for installation of several courtyard gardens. Mrs. Slack thanked the generous parents and community members who continue to support the schools and students of Rye.
Resolution to Establish Public Meeting on Utility Tax    
The Board of Education approved a resolution to establish a public meeting on May 28 regarding the utility tax that is being considered. No decision has been made yet regarding a utility tax, but in order to keep this option open, the establishment of a public hearing was necessary. 
Superintendent's Recommended 2014-15 Budget   
The Board and Administration continued their discussions around the Superintendent's Recommended 2014-15 Budget, which is focused 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. 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, March 11, and March 25. 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. The District is facing a shortfall of $3,704,778; this number is lower than that which was originally presented, due to additional State Aid funds. The Superintendent's Recommended 2014-15 Budget is 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 $3.7 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 estimated annual utility tax revenue of $1,200,000. The estimated projected prorated revenue for 2014-15 would be $990,700. The Board has NOT made a decision yet as to whether or not a utility tax will be implemented.
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.  
Per Pupil Cost
A chart displaying per pupil costs as of 2012-13 compared Rye with fourteen of its neighboring school districts. The data, provided by the Westchester-Putnam School Boards Association, reveals Rye to be towards the bottom of the list with one of the lowest costs per student at $21,953. To put this into perspective, Bronxville's per pupil cost is $30,000, Harrison's is $27,555, and Blind Brook's is $25,520. Despite an increasing enrollment, Rye's per pupil expense increases have remained lower than the rate of inflation, which was achieved through many efficiencies that have been made throughout the District. The full chart is included in the Superintendent's Recommended Budget presentation.  

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.      
The majority of the Board expressed their support of a tax cap compliant budget, although both options are still possibilities. The Board will adopt the proposed budget on April 22.   
Next Regular Meeting
April 22, 2014
8:00 pm 
Rye Middle School    Multipurpose Room

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