YORKTOWN, N.Y. - A $97.9 million budget that cuts spending and lowers taxes has been unanimously adopted by the Yorktown Central School District Board of Education.
The budget, which lowers spending by $240,000, will now be decided by district voters on Tuesday. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Mohansic Elementary School. Though the tax levy is up by 0.09 percent, which is below the state-imposed cap, tax rates are down across the board for Yorktown, Cortlandt and New Castle residents. In Yorktown, residents are expected to see a 0.22 percent decrease.
The reason for this, explained Tom Cole, assistant superintendent for business, is that there are more taxable parcels in 2018-19 than in years past.
This is the first budget for Superintendent Dr. Ron Hattar, who was appointed in June 2017. In his first year, Hattar introduced ESTEAM. The acronym is a creation of Hattar’s and promotes an Empathy-based approach to STEAM learning (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math).
The 2018-19 budget makes financial investments to support this philosophy of learning, such as new courses and facilities upgrades.
“Our approach takes empathy as the foundation of everything we do and combines the work of STEAM with it,” Hattar said at the April 16 school board meeting. “Yorktown has become the home of ESTEAM.”
Robotics, coding and other STEAM skills are highly sought after in today’s changing world, Hattar said. To highlight how much the world has changed, Hattar compared photos of the 2005 introduction of Pope Benedict XVI and the 2013 introduction of Pope Francis. In the latter photo, almost everyone in the crowd is recording a video on their phone.
“The way we’re doing business has shifted, and we must prepare students to meet those demands,” Hattar said.
Hattar enlisted the help of Emma Jones, a fifth-grade student at Crompond Intermediate School, to highlight the importance of the budget. Emma said Yorktown schools helped her discover her love of acting, singing, science, math and social studies.
“I know some day I’ll be able to go out into the world and chase my dreams because I was taught everything I need to know here first,” Emma said.
The budget is designed, Hattar said, with Emma and the other 3,451 district students in mind.
“I believe that we were successfully able to answer that question of how do we design an instructional program that meets the needs of our children and is respectful and sensitive to the taxpayers,” Hattar said. “We’re going to meet the needs of our students. This budget provides for that and it also provides for a tax rate decrease across the board.”
Hattar said there is a tax decrease despite a $680,000 increase in pension costs and a $435,000 increase in health insurance costs.
Eight teachers retired from the district, Cole said. Five contingency positions have been included in the budget in case enrollment is higher than expected. Last year, the district had 64 new students.
The district is also adding several new positions: a social worker, an occupational therapist, a special education reading teacher and a part-time speech teacher. Lisa O’Shea, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, said all schools will now be able to have their own dedicated social worker.
“We have noticed that our students with disabilities are needing more support than we currently have in place,” O’Shea said.
Yorktown is not cutting existing programs, Hattar said. Freshman girls volleyball and boys soccer teams will be fielded. Last year, Hattar said, 50 students were cut from those sports.
On Tuesday, the district is also asking permission to remove $4 million from its capital reserve fund, which currently has $6 million in it. The fund was created last year, but voters must authorize all withdrawals. The money will be spent on facility upgrades to the servery at Brookside; the nurse’s suite at Mohansic; corridor lighting and flooring at Crompond; an ESTEAM Lab at Mildred E. Strang; a cooling tower replacement at Mildred E. Strang; second-floor air conditioning at Yorktown High School; and gymnasium bleacher replacement and other repairs at Yorktown High School.