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Mamaroneck, Rye Neck School Superintendents Assail Tax Levy Cap

Robert Shaps and Peter Mustich
Robert Shaps and Peter Mustich Photo Credit: Linnet Tse

MAMARONECK, N.Y. -- Mamaroneck Schools Superintendent Robert Shaps and the Rye Neck Schools Superintendent Peter Mustich, assailed the state's mandated cap on the property tax levy that was enacted in 2011, which Mustich called “ridiculous . . . onerous . . . unreasonable.”

The remarks were made at the Larchmont-Mamaroneck Local Summit’s breakfast program in March.

Mustich pointed out that people don’t understand that “Two percent is not two percent.” He explained that this year, with inflation at a low, the cap, prior to exclusions, is close to zero and well below the modest salary increases included in staff contracts and the continuously rising cost of benefits. Both he and Shaps said a two percent expense cap would be preferable. Always wrestling with whether to exceed the cap, both superintendents are again keeping their proposed budgets within the tax cap limit.

“After years of staying within the cap, a number of school districts are now facing a wall, with significant shortfalls between their budgets and the cap,” explained Mustich. If a district exceeds the cap, its budget must be approved by a supermajority – 60 percent – of voters; if it fails, its budget will be held flat to the prior year’s budget. Despite past support for their budgets, neither superintendent feels he can gamble on an override. Neither superintendent believes that the tax cap has resulted in a greater focus on efficiency.

Shaps described how he has “uncovered every rock in programs, staffing and operations,” from looking at how the district uses copiers to examining hiring/assignment practices.

One of Mamaroneck’s larger cost savings drivers has been the move to a self-insured health plan. As expenditures, driven by staffing-related costs, continue to outpace the tax levy cap limits, districts will face even greater budget challenges, especially those with growing enrollment, like Mamaroneck. Strong community support will be critical and both superintendents expressed appreciation for having supportive boards and communities.

The school budget votes are on Tuesday, May 17.

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