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Mamaroneck School Budget Vote: Pro and Con

There has been much discussion in the community about a tax increase, eliminating the APPLE program at Mamaroneck High School, the Superintendent’s salary and more.

The proposed MUFSD budget is available on the district website. The vote on this budget requires a “super majority” (60%.)

Here are two opposing viewpoints.


PRO
 Melanie Kraut, President PTA, Murray Avenue School

Dear Editor,

May 16th, we will be voting on a new school budget. As responsible citizens and voters, we are obligated to make sure we know the facts of the budget.

Increasing the tax levy to 2.25%:  The NY State Tax Cap, set in 2012, is 2%. However, the 2% Tax Cap does not take into account a student population that, over the past 6 years, has had a net increase of 462 students.

Our per pupil spending over the past 6 years has remained relatively flat, thanks to shared staff across schools, targeted staff reductions and careful budgeting, but simple math tells us that at some point, the budget needs to exceed the 2% tax cap to maintain our per pupil spending as well as our contractual obligations to our employees.

If you are concerned about your taxes increasing, it is significant to note that tax CAP and tax RATE are different. Tax CAP is defined above. Tax RATE is based upon the Town’s latest assessments (which apply to all three relevant municipalities) and is projected to decrease by 0.94%.  This means that if your home assessment goes up less than 1% or goes down, your school taxes will actually cost you less than they did last year, under this new budget.

Mamaroneck Schools Superintendent Robert Shaps will not receive a $396,000 salary. His salary is $271,922, which is not an increase from last year, and is in the middle to low end of what surrounding districts are paying their Superintendents. The 6% increase referred to is made up of $76,131 for salaries of support staff in his office and a $21,000 retention bonus for Dr. Shaps, granted by the BOE.

The APPLE program is a school within a school that serves high risk kids in our district. This program, which has been around for 40 years, is now seeing very low enrollment (9 kids this year, and roughly the same in recent years), despite the district inviting over 30 kids to participate this year. The decision to “re-design” a program that keeps kids with the same four core teachers for all four years, with additional psychological and counseling support, was made because the model has become unsustainable. Parents whose kids are in this program are very concerned, because the “re-design” makes their children mainstream, with a full time psychologist and academic liaison, which is not the same level of support as before. The district has assured these families that they will continue to closely monitor the kids and will continue to support them throughout their time at MHS.

If this budget gets voted down, we can’t pull funds from our contractual obligations to employees, so funds will be pulled from student spending.  Class sizes are in jeopardy of getting bigger – not smaller. Athletics, support services and many other programs would need to be trimmed or cut because we simply wouldn’t have the money to keep them going.

 

AGAINST District parent who wishes to remain Anonymous

To the Editor:

Those in favor of the Proposed Budget talk about the cost of health care for employees going up but rarely mention the Superintendent’s office 6% salary increase or the salary cost for yet another Assistant Superintendent.

But most importantly, do they really know anything about APPLE?  I doubt it–if one watches the January 10th School Board meeting as well as the March 21st School Board meeting, “sympathy” about the elimination of APPLE has no basis and is actually insulting!

There are many people in this community who have had to put their child into private school as their learning style or learning difference could not be supported by this district.  Do they know families, who have private tutors for their students?  I bet the answer to both questions is a resounding, “YES.”  Do they know that there are people in this town, who don’t have the means to pay for private school or private tutors or whose kids would not accept either?   Do they know that there are some “average” people living in this town? There go the property values!

Scarsdale, Edgemont, Bronxville, Harrison, Rye, Chappaqua and Pleasantville, just to name a few Westchester County school districts, all have Alternative HS Programs & some are considered the best in the County–something that many house-hunters look for.

I urge everyone to vote down this budget which only serves ton benefit some at the expense of others.

 

theLoop
theLoophttps://www.larchmontloop.com
theLoop has been the Sound Shore area's online source of news, information and conversation since 2007.

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rational citizen
rational citizen
5 years ago

voting NO!!!
any larchmont resident that supports this fiasco deserves all the misery that comes their way!
mamaroneck wouldn’t exist without larchmont allowing themselves to be bled dry. wake up people. larchmont needs to be independent of mamaroneck and voting NO is the first step.

IE
IE
5 years ago

We are voting NO to the school budget. There are many reasons:
1) as a community member , everyone counts. I never had a child in the Apple program. But, we all pay taxes so our children can have the best education. The Apple has changed throughout the years , because of lack of knowledge and pushed to the sidelines. I have friends who have graduated from Apple over 30 years ago and are all professionals. Apple used to be a school within the school for kids who are smart, but need structure.
2) Dr Shaps forgot to mention he wants an increase of $18000, to his already top salary in the country. There are only 5% who make what he gets. That will give him a salary of $379,000.
3) all these years he didn’t have an assistant, why now? Is the job too hard?
4) the constant changing of the teachers, so he could keep the salaries down. If you have a good educator, keep them.
4) re-doing the gym doesn’t cost millions of dollars, who is the contractor?
5) he needs to listen to his staff and get their help to restructure classrooms.
He is saying he is re-designing the programs in school. There are lots of waste for example; we have open campus in high school. When a teacher calls in sick, the sub is not capable of teaching. Instead of wasting money on substitute teacher, save the $100 and give the kids the hour free. You are wasting money.

Melanie Kraut
Melanie Kraut
5 years ago
Reply to  IE

IE,
Every point you cite is severely lacking in facts and education.
To address the most glaring misinformation:
Dr Shaps’ salary IS NOT changing from last year. He makes $271,922, which is at the mid to low end of Supts in surrounding districts. He has always had Joanne Rice, who serves as our District Secretary. The increase to the Supt budget is going to salary increases in his office, supplies and a one time retention bonus of $20k for Dr Shaps, which is an earned bonus assigned by the BOE, justified because next year, by state law, we will be responsible for paying his health care – whether he is in our district or not. And he is doing an excellent job and we want to keep him here.

We DO keep good teachers. The tenure system and the teacher’s union make sure of it, and our district’s continued standard of excellence is a testament to it.

The funds being used to renovate the pathetically dilapidated and non functioning athletic spaces at the High School come from a BOND, that was approved by our comminity LAST YEAR. Those funds and that project have nothing to do with this budget.

For you to understand the whole APPLE conversation, you need to learn a lot more about the children that it serves and the resources it requires. It is not simply a place for kids who are smart and need more structure. It goes way beyond that to meeting the needs of the highest risk kids in our district. “Redesigning” the APPLE program was not a budget decision and VOTING DOWN THIS BUDGET WILL NOT BRING BACK APPLE.

Voting down this budget will simply decrease our per pupil spending in our district and cut programs, which is not a good thing for anyone.

The approval of his budget may actually mean YOUR TAXES GO DOWN, because the town’s tax base (for all three municipalities in our school district) is LOWER than it was last year. If your property assessment stays flat or goes down, you will acually pay less in taxes than you did last year.

Vote your mind, but make sure you know the facts. Terribly irresponsible otherwise.

Concerned Citizen
Concerned Citizen
5 years ago
Reply to  Melanie Kraut

teachers union = pond scum

that you would cast praise on the union as being aligned with the best interests of either the children or the taxpayers is ignorant and outrageous.

pathetic that this budget passed. it only shows even more that larchmont needs to secede from mamaroneck.

if anything you said true, the school district would not be the lowest ranked district in the county: bronxville, scarsdale, pelham, edgmont, chappaqua, rye, blind brook, irvington, hastings on hudson, briarcliff manor, etc. ALL are rated higher, even though they are similarly situates to larchmont in demographic.

the reasons? the drain that is mamaroneck, and the currish filth of the teachers union.

remove those two things, and larchmont has one of the best school districts in the county

JB
JB
5 years ago

My experience with the Mamaroneck public schools has been an unmitigated disaster, particularly at the middle school and high school level. The schools are probably great for kids who are self-motivated or who have special needs, but for the vast majority of kids in the middle, there is very little in the way of support, supervision or attention. The open campus structure at the high school is frankly insane — 14 year olds should not be allowed to roam the streets at will, entirely unsupervised. The fact that “frees” do not all happen at the same time, combined with the open campus, means that nobody knows whether a kid who is out of class is skipping class. Not to mention C-Wall. I don’t understand how C-Wall has been allowed to exist for all of these years. The result is that after years of paying for tutors to try to make up for the lack of support for my kids, not to mention many years of paying sky-high property taxes, all three of them had to move to private schools to get the support that they needed. Thankfully they are doing well now, but what about the many people in our district who don’t have the resources? I think it is well past time for the community to demand a serious re-thinking of the approach to education in our district.

rational citizen
rational citizen
5 years ago
Reply to  JB

agree 100%

tina
tina
5 years ago

Just curious , it appears there is no direct contact info for each individual school board member . There is one common email address to all and when I called about this awhile ago someone from administration (if I remember correctly Shaps office then directs it to the appropriate board member) What if someone wants to bring something confidential in nature directly to a board member ? Everyone else in the district including PTA volunteers has an direct email yet the BOE elected by the taxpayers does not . Why?

fed up
fed up
5 years ago
Reply to  tina

And it is nearly impossible to get a reply from them when you send to the Board e-mail. They completely ignore public comments and concerns, and suddenly become so attentive at refuting concerns when there is a school budget vote.

IE
IE
5 years ago
Reply to  fed up

You are absolutely correct, the board doesn’t get involved. They all have drank the coolaid that Dr Shaps has given them.

taxpayer & grandfather in Mamaroneck
taxpayer & grandfather in Mamaroneck
5 years ago

Hey Jon, sometimes it’s not about the numbers..it’s that “I know what’s best for you so don’t bother me with the personal stuff” attitude. Just creates a frustrating feeling among parents. Know what I mean??

Jonathan Sacks
Jonathan Sacks
5 years ago

Actually no, not sure what you mean…

As a member of the CFAC and active participant with the School Board, I do leave to the educators the job of educating. I can bring my personal expertise in finance and management to the table and add value, but I can’t challenge on the issues regarding the educational program.

What I think we as citizens have the right to do is to ask the questions, give input and be able to have a meaningful dialog, but in the end the administration with Board oversight needs to have control.

With 30,000 citizens in our community, we must look towards creating the best situation for the majority of students. This is not the best solution but all that we can afford, it can’t be squeaky wheel.

That being said there is usually a way in our district to find a special resource to meet a “Personal Need”. It’s been my experience with 3 children in the district that when personal attention is needed, I have been able to find the resources (perhaps sometimes with more work than I expected).

An effective school board weighs the needs of the public with the guidance/expertise of the administration and staff, they are not there to make every decision, but to hire the Superintendent and to approve policy. So yes sometimes they need to discount the “Personal Stuff”.

tina
tina
5 years ago

I am voting No . Why do we need so many assistant superintendents ? Also in my opinion Dr Shaps makes enough money . There is always money for this kind of stuff . I really disliked that situation with the Guatemalan student when the district was claiming that he had finished high school at 16 .Then trying to deny him an education. But money for superintendents raises and more assistant superintendents .

mother of 4
mother of 4
5 years ago

i heard that Dr Shaps has been CALLING people in the District that posted negative comments about the budget to ask them why they did so…”please vote for my salary increase?”

Melanie Kraut
Melanie Kraut
5 years ago
Reply to  mother of 4

You can’t villify the guy for being inaccessible and inhuman and then chastise him for facilitating communication. We teach our kids about digital citizenship, which means you must be the same person online that you are in person. Perhaps some adults need to learn that lesson as well, or can prove that they have learned it by having a conversation with the person they have berated online.

IE
IE
5 years ago
Reply to  Melanie Kraut

Facilitating communication? Are you for real? He was so sneaky about getting rid of Apple, in all the documents and newspapers, there is no mention of his salary increase either. He is saying he is revamping the education, yeah right, I like to see how? When September comes, I like to see what kind of support he is giving those poor kids from Apple.

taxpayer & grandfather in Mamaroneck
taxpayer & grandfather in Mamaroneck
5 years ago

Melanie, It’s not the :fiscal responsibility” that people are upset about. That’s usually a common sense decision. The problem here , which has been expanding in the last 6 years is the attitude of the superintendent especially at meetings, his callous disregard for what homeowners desire, and the rubber-stamping of all his directives by a BOE that initially hired him under the condition that they allow him carte-blanche…and has practiced that to this day, with few exceptions. Many of us used to attend meetings regularly but found them to be little more than a smokescreen for back-room decisions already made. We had a great relationship with Dr. Freid for many years. Many of us who volunteered were active 5, 10 and 20 years ago. We see the change. Of course, at Murray in the Woods, you never had to deal with the insane proposal for a school-based health clinic or with having low-bid bus contractors try to replace a premium in-district transportation system. Years ago, anyone could run for the school board. Now you have to be “selected” by a chosen committee to even get a chance to run.! We haven’t changed, the administration and the BOE has. It’s time for a change.

Melanie Kraut
Melanie Kraut
5 years ago

Taxpayer and Grandfather, You have hit on a common chord. I agree with you that our BOE must serve the public. They technically work for us, as they are elected officials.

PTCouncil is a monthly meeting with PTA Presidents from all 6 schools and SEPTA. Dr Shaps and a BOE rep always attend as well. From conversations over the past 2 years in PTCouncil, I can tell you confidently that Dr Shaps and the BOE have gotten the message loud and clear that the public needs more transparency and needs to feel more heard and valued. They have made a concerted effort in the past year to get out there into the public and make themselves available. The BOE meetings are just one avenue for this communication. They have also scheduled meetings at all of our schools and in the community and even label them “listening tours”. I encourage you, and any community members who feel shafted and not heard to get to these meetings and be a part of the conversation. If you were in the conversation years ago, please try again. They are intentionally a casual conversation without the confines of a formal BOE meeting and can therefore be more constructive. Tell them, in no uncertain terms, what you don’t like. Tell them why you don’t trust them. Tell them, so that they can listen and learn. But BE CONSTRUCTIVE, because they are human too and you will always get more bees with honey.

By the time a topic appears on the BOE agenda, it has likely already been discussed and decisions may have already been made, which is why it is so important to keep your ear to the conversation throughout the year. I realize that the general public doesn’t usually have the free time or interest to follow the BOE, but if you choose to make that investment, then you will be a part of the process vs appearing late in the game and crying foul. Yes, there have been cases where the public has not been notified in advance, but again, if you had been a part of the process, you probably would have caught it earlier, albeit in small print. Everything they do is public and they are not trying to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes.

In response to the BOE “selection committee”, it is not a censorship group, but a vetting group to ensure that candidates for the BOE will are qualified to serve and will be constructive and not destructive. You can disagree with everything the BOE is doing, but if you are out to take them down, that’s a very irresponsible plan that will irreparably rock our community and do damage to our schools. My Dad was on the school board in a district that adopted a vetting system because we had a rash of BOE members who literally wanted to burn books and didn’t make these intentions known until they had been elected. I wish I was kidding. I’m not saying that’s your intention at all, but you would be surprised at some of the radical people who have wanted to serve on our BOE for single issue reasons or a general discontent with the status quo with little to no knowledge or regard for the history of our district and all of the things that are working and done well. Without some sort of vetting system, the public is not educated on who these candidates are and why they want to serve.

You can absolutely run if you are not approved by the selection committee. That happens all the time. But, as our history shows, the candidates who are vetted usually get elected because they are most qualified, invested, and constructive and the community vote has verified that claim.

So, yes, I completely agree with you that communication on the part of our BOE is essential and required. However communication is a two way street which gives us responsibility as well. And as is true in any interaction, if the conversation isn’t constructive, it isn’t successful…even for those of us in the “Woods.” ?

Svetlana Tsalik
Svetlana Tsalik
5 years ago
Reply to  Melanie Kraut

There are a number of problems with the above response. (1) The problem with the “listening tours” is that no one outside parents of enrolled public school students knows about them. I am subscribed to receive e-mails from the BOE, and I do not get notices of those meetings. The only time I find out about them is if a friend with a child in one of the schools forwards them to me. (2) Melanie mentions that by the time an issue appears on the agenda, it has already been discussed and a decision made. This is undemocratic, against the Board’s charter, and simply wrong. The reason the BOE is required to follow open meeting rules is so that community members can be involved in the decision-making process. What is the point of an open meeting rule when a decision has already been made? I think that is precisely why why issues like transportation and the health clinic were so divisive–because a tacit decision had already been made and the BOE was hell-bent to go forward. (3) I have no issue with the idea of vetting candidates to the BOE. My issue is with the lack of transparency about the vetting. Why aren’t those meetings open to the public? Because of the secrecy of those meetings, the first time the public sees the name of a candidate, it is when they appear–uncontested–on the ballot. I hope the PTA and the BOE takes the spirit of these comments in a constructive way. There are a great many people in the community who are disillusioned with the lack of transparency and accountability in the way the BOE is selected and operates. Addressing these issues will only help you in getting the support you need for the budget to pass with less contention. (4) you wonder why people are posting comments anonymously. That is because there has been ample evidence of the BOE and the employees of the school district retaliating against students of families who dare to criticize. A sad state of affairs.

IE
IE
5 years ago

You are absolutely correct, they do retaliate against those who speak up.

Melanie Kraut
Melanie Kraut
5 years ago

After reading all of these comments, I am left wondering one thing.
Why, if certain members of this community are so dissatisfied with the fiscal responsibility of our school district, are they not attending the monthly BOE meetings, which happen throughout the school year, and actively solicit community input? Or attending one of the many community conversations which are widely publicized and conducted for the sole purpose of understanding what the stakeholders are thinking and wanting? Or run for the school board themselves?

The BOE members making these decisions are volunteers who do not have any personal gain from sitting there, month after month, taking abuse and criticism from the public, who can’t be bothered to acually be constructive and instead are quite liberal with their complaints. You want change? You don’t like what you see? BEFORE you complain, VOLUNTEER. LEARN. BE CONSTRUCTIVE. It’s very easy to complain about something you have never done yourself, and those complaints usually vanish once you actually get involved.

The school budget is a very complicated process, which very few tax payers actually understand, simply because they haven’t invested the time to learn. It is a balancing act with 5,500 students and three municipalities of tax payers in the equation. The information is all available to you and members of the BOE are happy to talk to you and explain anything you want to know.

We all want great schools and low taxes and we all think of our kids first. But to be a thriving community, we must also pull the lens back and understand that the reason why this community is such a great place is because of its diversity and constant ability to adapt and grow. Change doesn’t always feel good, but sometimes it is necessary for the good of the whole and the individual and sometimes opens new doors that we didn’t even know were there.

I support this budget, not from a place of naïveté, but from a place of knowledge and continual learning – about our community, our children and the numbers at stake.

Larchmont parent
Larchmont parent
5 years ago

Not surprised to read PTA president Kraut in support of the proposed budget. Have never heard of a PTA or SEPTA official challenge the Shap administration…even when they should! All you ever hear are whispers about threats of losing space or programs…even the BOE selection process is closed but to a small group of insiders. Wake up taxpayers, it’s Rule by Intimidation! What else could you expect. Sad.

time for change
time for change
5 years ago

It is sad that the PTA is the mouthpiece for the BOE and not for the parents it is supposed to speak for

Melanie Kraut
Melanie Kraut
5 years ago

What a great opportunity to clarify what the PTA is and what it does.

The PTA is the invested parent body that runs (and funds) all non-district programs in our schools. To give you some idea, at Murray we currently have over 40 programs, run by about 500 parents. We are all volunteers.

The PTA Presidents of all 6 schools make up the PT Council. the PT Council meets monthly with Dr Shaps and a BOE rep in attendance. In these meetings, we learn the ideology of the district and we see, firsthand, the level of excellence this district has consistently delivered to its students. It is quite impressive. We also learn that this district maintains that level of excellence because we all work as a team with the same goal: excellent schools for our kids.

The PTAs of all 6 schools (which encompasses ALL parents of the schools – not just officers of the PTA) have endorsed this budget.
The reason the PTAs always endorse the budget is because we spend the year conversing with Dr Shaps and the BOE about what is working and what isn’t in our schools and we report back to our greater parent population for an ongoing fluid conversation. We are not shy about making sure that our children are in the best possible learning enviromnent. We also voice concerns from parents and community members about how this excellent education is affecting our taxes and property values.

The PTA is not a mouthpiece for the BOE, but rather a teammate with the BOE and Superintendent in keeping this district excellent.

C O M M U N I T Y • C A L E N D A R