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Ossining Schools Could Face $4.4 Million Budget Gap

Ossining school board members listen to the public at a mini budget session Jan. 16. With the sessions concluded, the board will need to consider budget cuts.
Ossining school board members listen to the public at a mini budget session Jan. 16. With the sessions concluded, the board will need to consider budget cuts. Photo Credit: Nathan Bruttell

OSSINING, N.Y. – The Ossining School District’s budget mini-lessons are done, but the 2013-14 budget season is far from over.

“No decisions have been made at this time, but we will be including community feedback every step of the way,” Interim Superintendent Ray Sanchez said Thursday of dealing with the $3 million to $4.4 million shortfall for the 2013-14 school year.

“We’ve started this earlier in an effort to have discussions with our community and gather feedback before we finalize our decisions. But this process has really just started.”

More than 200 residents attended the last of three budget mini-lessons at Claremont Elementary School on Wednesday night. More than 100 residents attended each of the three sessions, school officials said.

Compounding the difficult decisions that are likely to lead to cuts in some programs are questions surrounding the district’s budget outlook. The district was finalizing the tax levy limit calculation, Assistant Superintendent for Business Alita Zuber told community members Wednesday night. But she estimated that a 2 percent tax levy would equal a $4.4 million budget shortfall while a 3.5 percent tax levy would equal about $3 million.

“The issue is that our expenses aren’t capped, and there are certain expenses required by law,” Zuber said Wednesday night. A 2 percent levy would also give the board a $6.8 million shortfall next year. “The problem does not go away. This room will probably be crowded next year at the same time because we’ll be facing the same issues.”

District officials ran mini-lessons on prekindergarten, teaching assistants and transportation Wednesday night. Officials also spoke about modified sports and ice hockey, but after being informed that Ossining High School was involved in a game Wednesday night, officials postponed the discussion until Feb. 6.

“We saw so many community members come out to these and we’ve received great responses and feedback,” Sanchez said. The district would also conduct surveys later this year on possible program cuts to gauge community feedback. “The feedback has been very helpful and will continue to be as we go along. The nearest decision that needs to be made is going to be transportation.”

The Board of Education is set to discuss transportation mileage options at its next meeting Feb. 6, Sanchez said. The tax levy limit is also set for discussion and finalization by March 1.

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