Dear parents and guardians,
Today the Governor, Andrew Cuomo, failed to release his first round of cuts impacting public schools and their budgets notwithstanding his previous commitment to do so. Instead he called on the Federal government “to step up and fund schools.” Budget cuts impact districts like New Rochelle disproportionately, as compared to those that rely much more heavily upon the tax levy to fund their budget.
Although some may be relieved that cuts were not announced today, in many ways it complicates the work of the District and Board of Education. In order to have a public vote on June 9, 2020, the BOE must adopt a budget no later than May 21, 2020. This vote locks in the budget’s highwater mark. If cuts come after that vote but before the public votes on June 9, 2020, any such reduction in state aid will force the District to seek alternative sources of revenue to make up the shortfall in a very tight timeframe. This would have a devastating impact upon New Rochelle and other districts across the State.
The City School District of New Rochelle believes that it is imperative that Governor Cuomo either announce cuts soon enough to have them reflected in the budget the board adopts May 21, 2020 or after June 9, 2020; not in the critical window in between.
As you know, on May 5, 2020, the superintendent presented the Preliminary Superintendent’s Budget with a 0% increase in the tax levy. Understanding fully that the community is under tremendous financial strain, the superintendent developed creative solutions to ensure a sustainable budget with no increase to your taxes. We committed to use money left over from this year’s budget, more commonly referred to as “appropriated funds,” along with $1.6 million of our reserves to support next year’s 2020/21 budget. The district is committed to ensuring that the existing reserve levels remain, in large measure, intact to ensure that funds are available to help bridge anticipated financial shortfalls in upcoming years. The budget we proposed included nine (9) key new hires to provide services for our students.
Any cuts announced by the Governor in the future will directly impact the budget’s bottom line. Notwithstanding this potential unanticipated shortfall in state revenue, please know that we are committed to maintaining the 0% tax levy increase presented on May 5. However, this commitment is dependent upon no cuts being made during the critical window of May 21, 2020 to June 9, 2020. The central administration team has been working diligently to develop alternative plans, in anticipation of cuts the governor committed to releasing today, that could account for cuts at various degrees up to 3 million dollars. Through this hard work, we have been able to plan for strategic changes to the budget while simultaneously maintaining our educational program at or near the level we all expect including keeping our current staffing levels largely intact.
We must all remain vigilant and continue to advocate for additional Federal funding in an effort to avoid the future cuts that may be announced imminently as well as those that have been forecasted for June and December. We believe this is the only way to continue to maintain the wonderful programs our students enjoy. We further believe that any additional cuts beyond what we project as the tipping point of 3 million dollars, will necessarily impact our ability to retain all of the tremendously skilled and dedicated professional staff members provided for in the revised budget. Any cuts beyond 3 million dollars will undoubtedly force the District to make some very difficult choices.
We will continue to creatively and thoughtfully develop sound plans to stretch every dollar in service of our students and continue to make investments towards the future in innovative ways. The budget we presented on May 5, 2020 anticipated the potential need to borrow up to $100 million dollars through the use of TANs, BANs and RANs which we will leverage only to the extent absolutely necessary to ensure that we have the cash flow required to continue to our operations. Every decision we make and thereafter ask the administration to implement is made through the lens of this district’s Mission Statement. This mission serves as our guiding vision. We believe that our students deserve an excellent and rigorous education underpinned by our core beliefs and values; “The City School District of New Rochelle, through an active partnership amongst community, parents, staff and students, will provide a high quality and challenging education for every child, in a safe, nurturing environment that embraces our rich diversity and drives our success."
As we continue to grapple with the ever-evolving realities impacting our wonderful community, we do so with the confidence and commitment to serve every student and to ensure that the budget has been developed to account for this unprecedented moment in our nation’s history. Students who have been impacted by this crisis need our support now more than at any other time to ensure that they emerge stronger, wiser and more ready than ever to face the challenges in the next exciting chapter of their lives.
We will continue to keep you posted on developments as we become aware of the same.