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Briarcliff Superintendent Proposes Budget Decrease

BRIARCLIFF MANOR, N.Y. – Briarcliff Superintendent of Schools Neal Miller is recommending the school district tighten its belt.

Miller presented his proposed budget for the 2012-13 school year of $47,850,000 to the Briarcliff School District Board of Education Monday night. The budget is a decrease from the $48.4 million budget from the 2011-12 school year, a reduction of $550,000.

The budget has dropped consistently since the Great Recession, from a high of about $52.8 million in the 2008-09 school year, according to school records. With an expected loss of 33 students, Miller noted in the budget that per-pupil spending would increase from $29,766 in 2011-12 to $30,038 in 2012-13.

“One of the things that really stuck in my mind was to place education first, but to make sure education priorities balanced with fiscal responsibility,” Miller told the board Monday night. “I heard loudly and clearly from nearly everyone I’ve spoken to that people like what’s happening in Briarcliff and they don’t want it to change. That really hit home with me.”

The proposed budget includes a $247,000 increase to upgrade and replace districtwide technology, including the replacement of 90 Smart Boards.

“This was an area I felt really needed to be upgraded,” Miller said. “Virtually all of the (Smart Boards) were placed here a few years ago are out of date.”

School officials previously estimated that the tax levy increase could be at 3.59 percent, but Miller proposed a tax levy increase of 2.87 percent.

“This is the first year we’re under the tax cap in our state, and I wanted to make sure we were under that tax cap,” he said. “I’m very proud to say we’ve come up with a budget that accomplishes that.”

Miller said the budget reductions included contracting out two remaining bus runs and miscellaneous field trips, energy savings through “better controls on heating and cooling” and the reduction of one full-time equivalent cleaning position. With combined teacher retirements and replacements, Miller said, the district was also able to reduce regular education salaries by about $250,000.

Miller’s budget proposal included the addition of 31 teacher assistant positions and the removal of 27.8 full-time equivalent teacher aide positions that the board agreed to at a previous meeting. Overall, the district will be adding 2.7 FTE positions. The change from teacher aides to teacher assistants will save the district about $60,000, Miller said.

“It comes out to about $60,000 is the savings we’ll have when we do that,” he said Monday night. “It was one of those situations that wasn’t taken into consideration on the decision on that, but it does bring about a little bit of a savings.”

Stuart Mattey, assistant superintendent, said the budget includes a reduction of about $130,000 in the district’s operations and maintenance spending.

“A large part of our budget does go to operations and maintenance,” Mattey said. “In this number, although it’s being decreased, we have put in a lot of projects that were brought up by the ad hoc committee. One of the big items is the removal of the modular buildings. They’re in need of a lot of work and it’s not cost-effective to keep them, and move those students back into classroom space.”

Board President Guy Rotondo praised Miller for presenting a budget reduction.

“This to me just looks like an awesome outcome for our students, taxpayers and our teachers,” Rotondo said. “I can't help but look back three years ago when were looking at a budget $5 million higher than this.”

Slides from the budget presentation are available on the district's website. The district is scheduled to continue budget discussions on March 26, with budget adoption scheduled for April 16 and a budget vote May 15.

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