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Mount Pleasant Parents Face Inevitable School Cuts

THORNWOOD, N.Y. – The Mount Pleasant Central School District informed parents Thursday night that even if the district keeps its 2012-13 budget at an exact 2 percent tax levy increase – the maximum allowed within the state cap – it projects that $1.5 million dollars would still need to be cut, as well as 10-12 staff member positions.

Lisa Sanfilippo, business manager for the district, said with increasing expenditures, the options are either make cuts or raise taxes.

“Our expenditures continue to grow every year with things like pensions and salaries and operating expenses,” Sanfilippo said. “And our goal every year is to make our expenditures equal our revenues.”

The information was given to almost 50 parents who attended the budget forum in the Westlake High School Library. During a short budget presentation, Sanfilippo and Superintendent Susan Guiney gave parents three budget scenarios. If the district chooses to go with a 2 percent tax increase, taxes would increase by around $210 per average household within the district. Should the district choose to go with a zero percent tax increase, around $2 million dollars would need to be cut and around 16 to 18 positions. If the district chose to not make any monetary or positional cuts, taxes would increase by 4.8 percent, or around $427 per average household.

Guiney informed parents of possible reductions within the district that are being discussed in order make ends meet. Such reductions could include increasing class sizes in the high school and elementary schools, eliminating kindergarten, eliminating sports programs, reducing transportation, reducing technologies and eliminating non-teaching positions.

Guiney stressed that there are pros and cons to each resolution.

“For instance with increasing class sizes, a lot of parents are adamant about not doing that because it makes it more difficult to develop that personal teacher to student interaction,” Guiney said.

Parents in attendance were asked to get together in groups during the forum to discuss what they believe can be sacrificed and what should be safeguarded. They were then asked to share their discussion with the forum.

The most popular item to be sacrificed was transportation, either through elimination or consolidation.

“We hear a lot of stories about these busses, especially at the older level, being half full or empty,” Anthony Sardo said. “We’re not sure how true that is but it’s something to look at.”

The kindergarten program in the district was the most popular item amongst parents to be guarded when considering reductions.

Important facts and figures were also provided to parents about how much money the district spends a year due to state mandates. In the 2011-12 budget, the district was forced to spend $5 million alone on pensions and transportation.

Parents were also shown how the district stacks up against other districts in Westchester and Putnam counties in terms of their expenditures in various areas. Mount Pleasant ranked one of the highest in spending for sports and co-curriculars, seventh out of 46 districts. It ranked amongst the lowest in building operation costs, 40th out of 46.

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