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Scarsdale School Board, Residents Ponder Budget

SCARSDALE, N.Y. – About two dozen members of the community joined Scarsdale Board of Education members and school district staff Wednesday night for the first in a series of budget presentations for the 2012-2013 school year.

School Superintendent Michael McGill and Assistant Superintendent Linda Purvis spent the first hour detailing what goes into the budget process, how the district has kept increases to less than 3 percent a year for the past five years, and what Scarsdale and the rest of New York is up against under the new state 2 percent tax levy cap.

Purvis said that using updated figures since first calculating what a rollover budget would be – a budget that would keep everything the way it is this year – the gap between the budget and the cap would be $1.5 million, down significantly from earlier projections but still requiring painful cuts.

McGill, who boasted the district’s accomplishments from recent years, said 99 percent of the senior class attends college, 95 percent of whom go to four-year schools. "And 62 percent are accepted at the most prestigious colleges in the nation. I don't know of another public school in the country with that record, and I don't know of many independent schools that even approach it.”

McGill wrapped up his remarks by telling the crowd that when he presents the proposal to the board for consideration, “I’ll certainly be conscious of fiscal realities, but I'll also present a plan that will preserve and enhance the strengths of our schools.”

Some questions from the audience focused on budget surpluses carried over each year, along with reserves that some people suggested could be reduced to meet the cap. Purvis said such an approach could be harmful in the long-run because the surplus would run out.

Others urged the board to focus on creating a budget that ignores the cap – an arbitrary number created by politicians, they said – in favor of continuing to support and enhance Scarsdale's academic reputation.

Matt Armas, an Edgewood parent, expressed concern that the board and the community would have to go through the process of finding potential cuts to meet the cap every year, and questioned whether there was a way to avoid it. Board President Jill Spieler and McGill answered that there is no single answer to the questions because of too many variables involved.

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