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Home Schools Letter: Vote Yes on School Budget Tuesday

Letter: Vote Yes on School Budget Tuesday

In a letter to MyRye.com, Rye resident Mary Emery asks fellow citizens to vote "yes" on the school budget Tuesday. How do you plan to vote? Leave a comment below.

Need to know where and when to vote – look here.

"I write this letter to urge Rye City School District residents to vote “Yes” to support the school budget on Tuesday, May 17, 2011. 

Rye City Schools speak for themselves—from their ever-impressive student achievement and college placements–to the caring and high quality teachers and staff–to the outstanding extra-curricular activities–to the experienced and fiscally responsible administration and School Board—Rye has established an outstanding reputation nationwide and, some would say given Rye’s significant expatriate population, internationally. 

In a symbiotic manner, Rye real estate property values have been steadfastly bolstered by Rye’s strong public school system.  One has only to shop for a home in Rye to witness the shock of the premium price demanded and paid on even the most modest home in the district.  During the unthinkable real estate dips of the recession, Rye property values dipped less and are recovering faster.  It is no secret that strong public schools are the single best predictor of strong home values–many studies have confirmed this phenomenon.   And all property owners in the Rye community enjoy this boost in property values–whether or not they have children attending school in the district.   

The good news is the district is doing lots of things right–as expounded upon in published high school rankings, etc.  However, Rye’s excellence is now well known and for 2011-2012 the district expects the highest enrollment in its history.  Incoming 6th and 7th grade classes alone are the largest in more than 30 years.  Despite this increased enrollment, the district is predicted to receive 11.2% less state aid in 2011-2012.  Total state aid is expected to constitute just 3.7% of the district’s total budget.  Further, the district projects an estimated decrease in tax assessments including a decrease of approximately $902,000.  Moreover, the district expects higher fuel, electricity, general liability insurance and student accident insurance costs.

Faced with these economic realities, Superintendent Dr. Shine, Business Manager Kathleen Ryan and the School Board went to work crafting a fiscally responsible budget with the determination to continue Rye’s mission of excellence.  After painstaking consideration, the budget they propose is $71,908,000.  The estimated tax rate increase is 2.52% (or about $28.59 per month or $343.13 per year increase for a home having a fair market value of just over $1.2 million).  Though the Rye district is unique in its enrollment growth (few other districts are growing), both the proposed tax rate increase and the district’s overall per pupil expenditures are among the lowest of all high performing districts in Westchester. 

The district allocated $1.3 million for urgent repair and maintenance improvements, including the purchase of a portable classroom unit housing 2 more classrooms and other critical infrastructure improvements.  In an effort to keep the tax increase low, these much-needed improvements will be funded using existing reserves and are not part of the tax levy.  The proposed budget would allow the district to continue to honor its commitment to class size guidelines including an average class size of no larger than 20 for elementary school classrooms, 23 for grades 6 and 7 and 24 for grade 8.  Unlike many other downsizing school districts, Rye schools will add teaching positions to accommodate larger enrollment and honor class size guidelines.  The budget also provides for elementary Spanish language instruction through grade 5–achieving the district’s FLES program goals set in 2007.  The district will provide planned additional sections for Mandarin language study at Rye Middle School and Rye High School and offer middle school students the opportunity to elect a second language during middle school.  The district will place special emphasis in 2011-2012 upon improving core math, ELA (especially reading) and science results for all grades including measures to enhance program evaluation and assessment.  In addition, the district will maintain current levels of all art, music, physical education and other support services as well as all athletic programs and clubs.  This and more are achieved through this budget despite a very low tax increase.

The proposed budget represents a wise investment in our schools and in our community.  It is carefully designed–not just to maintain the status quo–but to further advance excellence in Rye schools.  We are very lucky Dr. Shine, Kathleen Ryan and our entire School Board have taken the time to prepare and present such a thoughtful and fiscally responsible budget.  Their efforts are nothing short of commendable.

My family moved to Rye a few years ago because of the quality of Rye schools.  We love it here and we feel very fortunate to have found a community that values its public school system so highly.  I hope you will join me in voting “Yes” on Tuesday, May 17 to maintain the standards of excellence for our schools and help keep our property values strong.  

Sincerely, Mary Emery
Rye, New York"

3 COMMENTS

  1. First, the positive news. From today’s Journal News http://www.lohud.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2011105130337, “The Rye school district portion of the city of Rye, Westchester County, is the lowest-taxed area within cities, with a rate of $15.68 per $1,000, the Empire Center found.” That says a lot positive about the Rye tax rate relative to other city school districts.

    Now the other side and the reason I’m voting “No” on this budget.

    The 2.55% tax rate increase is not bad given historical perspectives, but the increases in spending (and taxes) in this budget are just not necessary. There are areas that can be reduced. They’ve been identified in other forums and declined by the school board. Yes, this is a “better” budget than some, but since when have Rye residents settled for good enough? And, given increasing enrollment, in the near term, there will need to be a large bond issues to pay for revisions to the instructional facilities at the HS and MS.

    There’s also the question as to how we should know that we’re getting value for the money to be spent on development programs. They are absolutely necessary, but the district has failed to give a credible explanation for the math and English test results. The district has also failed to give a credible plan for addressing the performance issues in these areas. And yet, we’re being asked to spend more on education. As tax payers, shouldn’t we expect more than a parade of college admissions and AP tests? Without addressing both opportunities to reduce the planned budget and a credible analysis of the current issues in student performance – let alone a well reasoned plan for addressing them – I can not support the proposed budget. And yet, as stated here by me previously, I expect it to pass.

  2. Bob:
    In your five plus years on the BOE how many school budgets did you not support or vote against?
    Why the change of heart?
    You dedicate five lines of text to the good news, yet twenty-three lines are offered as to why you are not supporting the budget.
    How did you vote today?

  3. Old Garnet – you took the time to count the lines in my post, but you didn’t read it? Your question implies that as I voted like I said I would, “No”. And for the record, I voted “No” last year for the same reason I resigned – I didn’t support the budget because it had too much unnecessary spending in it.

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