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Mamaroneck Superintendent Breaks Down Tax Cap

MAMARONECK, N.Y. – Mamaroneck schools’ Robert Shaps was one of 62 superintendents in the lower Hudson Valley who challenged state legislators to review the 150 state mandates that now account for close to 20 percent of their budgets and will make it difficult to meet the tax cap threshold.

Shaps is a member of the Lower Hudson Valley Council on School Superintendents (LHCSS), which went to Tarrytown Dec. 9 to plead its case to legislators for mandate relief. Members of LHCSS said many of these mandates are out-of-date or unnecessary. They proposed immediate changes to state mandates on transportation, pensions, health care and others that they feel could save millions in the short-term.

If New York State funded or reduced the mileage limits for private school out-of-district transportation from 15 to 5 miles, and allowed consolidation of services, it could save over $3.5 million in one year, according to the LHCSS summary of recommendations for mandate relief . The Mamaroneck School Board is also investigating cost savings related to completely outsourcing its transportation services .

However, Shaps said, those won't solve the budgetary problems all New York schools face going forward.

"Even if you identify one-time or multi-year savings, the broader issue living in a tax cap world is that your expenditures will continue to grow at a faster rate than your ability to grow the budget, based on the tax levy limit," Shaps said.

This year, the Mamaroneck School District's obligations exceed the tax cap by approximately $900,000, Shaps said. A sample of 32 LHCSS districts have projected their combined obligations exceed the allowable tax levy by almost $78 million for the 2012-2013 budget year.

Over the past three years, 30 LHCSS districts have cut almost $179 million in programs and eliminated 1,559 staff—costing districts almost $11 million in unemployment costs, according the LHCSS summary of recommendations . That comes in tandem with $300 million in reductions of state and federal aid.

"Certainly, our priority is to maintain the quality of our schools, maintain our programs and staffing levels," Shaps said. "This model – this artificial cap – will put a lot of pressure on the community to make hard choices about our education system."

The LHCSS also requested a freeze on all new and pending mandates pending a cost-analysis review. Their proposals were well received by legislators, such as State Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D, IP, WF – District 35), according to published reports. She said she intends to work with other legislators to ensure the message is heard in Albany.

Shaps said he wants to further educate the Mamaroneck community on the tax cap. He participated in a local summit forum at Hommocks Middle School Dec. 5. Most recently, he posted a video on the school website further explaining the tax cap's impact.

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