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 5/6/14 Rye City School District Board of Education Meeting


Midland Principal Appointed    
The Board approved the appointment of James Boylan as Midland School Principal, effective July 1, 2014. Mr. Boylan joins Rye from the Hastings-on-Hudson School District, where he has served as Assistant Principal at Hillside Elementary School since 2011. Prior to this role, Mr. Boylan worked in the Briarcliff Manor School District, where he worked as an elementary school teacher while also honing his experience as a teacher leader and administrator. The Board of Education and Administration conducted a thorough search and interview process and reviewed over 140 candidates. Numerous focus groups were held, even one with the children themselves, to obtain various levels of input. The District is confident that Mr. Boylan possesses the qualities that students, staff, and parents would like in their next principal. 
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Alvarez described Mr. Boylan's background as an administrator as well as a classroom teacher, noting the ways in which this makes Mr. Boylan an excellent fit for Midland as well as the District's administrative team. Board of Education President Laura Slack extended congratulations on behalf of the Board, stating that they were impressed by Mr. Boylan and are thrilled for Midland. Mr. Boylan addressed the Board, Administration, and audience, thanking them for the opportunity to join Rye and expressing his enthusiasm for his new role. He will be visiting Midland within the next few weeks to meet staff members and students and is looking forward to many successful years ahead. 
Superintendent's Report 
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Frank Alvarez provided a report to the Board of Education and community. He noted that the search for a new Middle School Assistant Principal as well as that for a new High School Assistant Principal are underway, with many applicants being reviewed with the hopes of an appointment shortly for a July 1 start. Current Middle School Assistant Principal Joe DeRuvo is retiring and High School Assistant Principal Ellen McDonnell will move on to accept a role as Principal for a middle school in a nearby district. 

Dr. Alvarez announced that Rye Family Night has been scheduled for May 13, and families are encouraged to enjoy spending time together however they may choose during this evening free of homework, meetings, and practices. He thanked Midland PTO chairs Leigh Geller and Melissa Hieger, along with all the PTO leaders, for helping launch what will hopefully become a Rye tradition. 

Dr. Alvarez also mentioned the Norovirus illness that was unfortunately contracted by a number of High School students, staff members, and parents after they attended the Junior Scholars Dinner held at a local country club. The District's custodial staff worked day and night in order to thoroughly clean all school buildings based on guidelines provided by the Department of Health; and various precautionary measures were taken throughout the buildings, particularly in the cafeterias, to prevent further spread of the illness. 

Lastly, Dr. Alvarez reminded residents that the League of Women Voters' Board of Education Candidates Forum was scheduled for May 8. 
Gifts to the District    
The Board of Education approved several gifts, two of which support 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. An anonymous donor contributed $5,000 and the High School PO provided $20,000 for this initiative. Additionally, a 10,000 gift donated from the Rye Middle School PO has enabled the installation of a GaGa court at the school. GaGa is a non-contact sport that can involve a large number of students and is ideal as a lunchtime activity. Mrs. Slack expressed appreciation to the parent bodies and others who have generously supported Rye students through gifts. 
Budget Transfers for Fuel    
The Board approved two budget transfers to cover the cost of additional fuel required for heating. Assistant Superintendent for Business Gabriella O'Connor explained that the Middle School/High School building utilizes gas service, which can be interrupted on high demand days. On particularly cold weather days, the District is asked by Con Edison to switch from gas to oil temporarily. The oil supply was necessary in order to enable this system of keeping the building heated during this year's exceptionally cold winter. 
Public Hearing II: Proposed 2014-15 Budget   
A second public hearing was held for the Proposed 2014-15 Budget. The budget vote and Board of Education election will take place on May 20 between the hours of 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. in the Rye Middle School gymnasium. 

The proposed budget of $79,365,200, is a tax cap-compliant budget that maintains programs; honors the class size policy; adds four teachers, one custodian, and one security guard at the High School; and fulfills the vision of what the Writing Mentor Program should be. An outline of the proposed budget is as follows: 

Tax Cap
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 new financing software, 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. 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
There are 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 decreased 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. 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
The Board adopted the Superintendent's recommended 2014-15 budget, which is tax cap-compliant. Dr. Alvarez made it clear to the Board that, in adopting this budget, they have to either enact a utility tax, use reserves, or make cuts, which he does not recommend. In order to implement a utility tax a public hearing must be held on May 28, during which the Board will make a formal decision.
Utility Tax, Explained
Based on what the City of Rye collects, the Board anticipates that, if imposed, a utility tax would yield an estimated annual revenue of $1,100,000. The estimated projected prorated revenue for 2014-15 would be $913,250. During the public hearing for the proposed budget it was mentioned that Rye is the only small city school district in Westchester County that does not currently collect revenue through a utility tax. Small city school districts, of which there are six in the County, are the only school districts in New York State that are permitted to implement this tax. 
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 utility bill, is collected by the utility, and the monies are remitted to the District by the utility.  
At the April 22 Board of Education Meeting, Mrs. Slack discussed the reasoning for a utility tax in further detail, sharing several points: 
* In remaining tax cap-compliant, residents who qualify for STAR exemptions will be eligible for the property tax rebate checks, which, we are told,will be sent to all qualifying homeowners to offset the increase in school taxes for 2014-15. 

* The utility tax increases the tax base, meaning that a percentage of the monies would come from sources other than homeowners. Part of the burden would be shifted to businesses, some of which are the biggest users of utilities.

* The utility tax is a device used by many of Rye's neighboring small cities to support school services, and can be enacted at the discretion of the Board of Education. Prior Boards of Education in Rye have resisted its use, and with good reason, but none of these prior boards had to contend with the revenue constrained environment that exists today.

* The diversification of revenue that the utility tax would provide supports the District's likelihood of sustaining its favorable Moody's Investors Services bond rating, which keeps borrowing costs low and results in significant savings for taxpayers.

* Alternatives to the utility tax - either staff and program cuts or an override of the cap - are even less desirable than the implementation of the utility tax. Mrs. Slack explained that the District has exhausted its ability to further reduce spending in the budget, as any meaningful cuts would impact programs and students.

* While an override will likely be inevitable in future years, this is a serious matter and the District must invest the time to educate the public on what it means and why it is necessary. Mrs. Slack noted that the District needs to establish its plan for communicating with all entities, over a substantial timeline, in order to provide them with information and address any questions regarding an override. 


The District's Focus on Excellence budget newsletter will be mailed to all Rye homes this week. This publication will contain important details about the budget to help residents make an informed decision. The budget vote and Board of Education election will be held on May 20 between the hours of 7 a.m.-9 p.m. in the Rye Middle School gymnasium. For more information and to view past presentations visit www.ryeschools.org. 

Next Regular Meeting
May 20, 2014
8:00 pm 
Rye Middle School    Multipurpose Room

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