Voters to Weigh-In on School Budgets by Absentee Ballot

The fate of seven local school district budgets lie in the hands of voters this week who can only make their voices heard through absentee ballots following an executive order from Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Each district will mail a ballot to every qualified voter in their jurisdiction. The ballots must be returned to the district clerk’s office by Tuesday, June 9 at 5 p.m.

Following is a summary of the budgets being presented to residents in each district:

Lakeland

The Lakeland School District features the largest budget in the region at $164,797,022. The 2020-21 package reduces spending by 5.7% ($10 million) from this year and projects a tax decrease for all six municipalities in the district, ranging from -3.7% in Somers to -0.2% in Cortlandt.

District officials are using $5.56 million from fund balance to partially make up for a loss of an estimated $4.3 million in state aid and Westchester County sales tax revenue.

Also on the ballot is a $4.2 million bond to pay for the second phase of roof replacement at Lakeland Copper Beech Middle School. The district will be reimbursed 62% of that cost from building aid.

Yorktown

The Yorktown School District is proposing a $100.26 million budget. Spending is up 1.55% and the estimated tax rate changes are 1.15% for Yorktown residents, 1.98% for Cortlandt residents and -3.33% for New Castle residents.

Security enhancements districtwide and a new engineering course at Yorktown High School are some of the key components in the budget. District officials are utilizing $3.5 million from fund balance to help offset a loss of $1.9 million from the state, county and rents from tenants at the former French Hill School building.

Hendrick Hudson

In the Hendrick Hudson School District, the $82 million budget increases spending by 2.62% and includes an average districtwide hike of 5.96%. Ninety percent of homeowners reside in Cortlandt and will see a tax increase of 5.25%. The small fraction that live in Peekskill will experience an 11.5% spike.

Next year’s budget is the first where Hendrick Hudson will feel the effects of the closure of the Indian Point nuclear power plants with a $3 million revenue reduction. Revenue from New York State and Westchester County due to the coronavirus pandemic is also projected to be lower. The district is allocating $3 million from fund balance to offset the shortfalls, while Superintendent of Schools Joseph Hochreiter has said there will also be savings associated with schools being shut down since mid-March.

“We have been sounding the alarm about Indian Point for three-and-a-half years. We have been talking about this for a really long time,” Hochreiter said. “Our goal has to be not to replace every dollar lost with tax dollars.”

If the budget were turned down, Hochreiter said the district would be forced to go to a contingency budget and $2.6 million would have to be cut.

Peekskill

The $98.5 million budget in the Peekskill School District increases spending by 1.93% and includes a tax hike of 1.95%.

District officials are using $2,882,879 from fund balance to partially compensate for a loss of $5.9 million in state aid. If the budget were rejected, $847,752 would have to be trimmed.

Somers

In the Somers School District, the $94.6 million budget increases spending by 1% and raises taxes by 1.8%.

To balance the budget, $400,00 from the Reserve for Retirement Contributions and $300,000 from fund balance is being allocated. The district is dealing with a $1.4 million shortfall from the state and county.

Four position reductions (buildings and ground, professional development and staff) are being proposed.

Ossining

The $137 million budget in the Ossining School District increases spending by 2.2%. The district is using $4.5 million from fund balance and $256,333 from capital reserves.

“Our budgetary goal is to ensure that we maintain quality programs for the students we serve in the Ossining School District,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Raymond Sanchez.

Croton-Harmon

The $49.4 million budget in the Croton-Harmon School District increases spending by 1.88% and increases taxes by 1.7%.

Also on the ballot is a bus proposition for the purchase of three vehicles, not to exceed $225,000, and $869,674 for the Croton Free Library.

“The 2020-21 school budget allows us to maintain our commitment to delivering a quality educational program and providing students the tools necessary to develop the traits of our profile of a Croton-Harmon graduate,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Deborah O’Connell.

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