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Superintendent Blanch Talks Budget at PTA Forum

SOMERS, N.Y. - Somers Superintendent of Schools, Raymond Blanch , appeared to speak at Thursday night’s PTA forum and gave a slide presentation on the proposed school budget.

With the aid of a chart, Blanch discussed the difference between a tax rate and a tax levy. The tax levy in Somers has decreased, he explained, because the assessed valuation of real estate has decreased. Therefore, in order to realize the same amount of taxes homeowners paid last year, the tax rate must be increased. The tax cap is a cap on the tax levy, not the tax rate.

Another slide illustrated that Somers’ annual expenditure per student is roughly $21,000. The highest expenditure in Northern Westchester is about $27,000, so the average in the area is about $23,000. Of the money that Somers spends on education, approximately 75 percent is earmarked for staff, meaning faculty, office assistants and others.

The total enrollment in Somers schools is decreasing, Blanch pointed out. For example, there are about 300 students in 7th grade, but only 233 in kindergarten. In the future a slightly smaller staff could be required.

At present there is a $3 million gap in the school budget, said Blanch. He touched upon ways of closing the gap, such as cutting the support staff, limiting supplies, and combining the separate reading and writing classes into one component.

Blanch also presented the results of a poll of 250 residents, the majority of whom viewed the school district favorably. In a poll about tax increases, 63 percent said an increase of 2 percent would be acceptable.

After the slide show Blanch spent over an hour answering questions from the audience.

Several people expressed confusion of the percentages involved and many wondered just what the tax impact would come to in dollars and cents. Local resident Rich Dashnaw offered a specific example of how many dollars the increase would amount to for a house assessed at $70,000.

Others were concerned about the possibility of combining reading and writing into one period with one teacher teaching both subjects. “The reading and writing split was one of the things that attracted me to this district,” said parent Jamie Mandel.

“We are not making chairs, we are making our kids, so keeping as many teachers as we can, keeping our class sizes small and our programs running is what counts. We are not being asked to open our wallets much more than we ever have,” Mandel added.

“I think we are approaching this thing from the wrong perspective. It is an amazing school district. I think we should discuss how to keep it this way. I just did the math with that proverbial $70,000 assessment. It comes out to $1.64 a day. I could find that in a heartbeat,” said parent Ekaterina Klimentova.

Superintendent Blanch added that the budget cycle has been started two months earlier than usual to allow for an ongoing discussion with parents.

Following are the next steps to be taken:

February 7: Proposed Expenditure Reductions

March 6: Review/Update of Proposed Budget

March 20: Review/Update of Proposed Budget

April 10: Budget Summary and Budget Adoption

May 8: Public Budget Hearing

May 15: Public Budget Vote and Trustee Election

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