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North Salem School Board Finishes Budget Scorecard

NORTH SALEM, N.Y. – Wednesday evening’s Board of Education meeting began with a recap of decisions made so far on the 2012-13 education budget.

A scorecard was posted, and board members were given the opportunity to make further adjustments.

The new budget would increase spending by $683,406 and comes in just below the mandated 2 percent tax levy cap. Board members agreed that the budget was so well thought-out and the figures so close that there was no room for changes.

At the suggestion of board member Andrew Brown, $800 was added to the athletics line, to be earmarked for the hockey team.

Superintendent Ken Freeston said to the audience of more than 50 people, “We’ve had more public engagement with this budget than with my experience anywhere. I’ve gotten letters, e-mails, telephone calls. The commentary has been intelligent and focused.”

Taxpayers’ concern about the elimination of an in-house occupational therapist and the size of next year’s fourth-grade classes lingered from last week’s meeting.

Parent Anne Greenberg said that outsourcing the resident therapist to the Putnam/Northern Westchester Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) is “more than just a line item in a budget, we are losing an individual who is helping our school be what it is.”

Parent Chris Mascia added, “I’ve been told that the team approach is best for a child. When you contract out, you lose the communication. It frustrates me because I love PQ and I think this is a big disservice to the school.”

Board of Education President Katherine Daniels assured parents that continuity and communication need not be sacrificed. Children will always see the same therapist, a person with at least 10 years’ experience. 

Freeston reminded parents that BOCES is actually an extension of the North Salem school system. North Salem is one of the 18 districts that cooperatively participate in providing special services through BOCES.

As for class size, Freeston pointed out that the fourth grade will have an adjunct teacher in addition to the four teachers for the four classes. That is also true of the third and fifth grades. Although there will be 28 classes at Pequenakonck Elementary altogether, there will be 31 full-time teachers.

“It seems that adding one teacher will make all our problems go away,” Brown said, “but one teacher will put us over the cap. And if we go over the cap, we need 60 percent approval. In my memory, the North Salem budget has never been approved by 60 percent. If the budget doesn’t pass, it goes back to zero. We’re trying to find the middle ground.”

The public will have the opportunity to vote on the new school budget on May 15.

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