By Holly Crocco
The Mahopac School Board has approved a $137.9 million budget for the 2023-24 school year, which represents a 4.1 percent spending increase – $5.5 million – over the current year and comes with a tax levy increase of 2.81 percent.
This comes in at about $800,000 less than what is allowed under the state-mandated property tax cap, which for Mahopac next year is 3.71 percent.
This means that, for a home assessed at $500,000 in the Town of Carmel, the tax bill will increase about $293 a year. In Putnam Valley, it will increase $293.
“We have so many wonderful programs to offer throughout the district and this budget will only enhance them and provide additional opportunities for our students,” said Superintendent Christine Tona at the April 18 board meeting.
According to Tona, as of March 31, the district enrollment for 2023-24 is projected to be 46 students less than the current year, at 3,776. However, the number of sessions will remain the same.
“When you look at them across the buildings and then across grade levels, 46 students is not enough to really see any personnel savings there because the students are all at different grade levels,” she said.
About 69 percent of budget revenue, or $94.8 million, will be collected through property taxes, with about 27 percent, or $37 million, coming in the form of state aid. A total of $3 million will be used from the fund balance, which is the same amount that was used this year.
Salaries and benefits make up almost 80 percent of expenditures in the 2023-24 budget. “And that’s typical in all school districts because in order to educate students, you need people to do that,” said Tona.
The total earmarked for salaries and benefits is about $107.8 million. About $12 million will go toward BOCES expenditures, with $6 million for contractual services, $5 million for debt services, $4.8 million going toward supplies, and $1.5 million earmarked for transportation (non-salary expenses).
The budget supports the creation of a Career Pathway program at the high school, more electives at the high school, expanding the K-6 Readers/Writers Workshop to grade seven, and adding a physical education teacher at the high school, an elementary library media specialist, a dedicated STEM coach at each elementary school, a literacy coach, content area special classes at the high school, a social worker at the middle school, an 8:1:2 (behavioral) elementary class, a board-certified behavior analyst, and a transition counselor (utilizing a federal grant),
The budget also expands unified athletics to include bowling, creates a girls’ ice hockey and boys’ swim program through mergers with other districts, adds an assistant coach for field hockey and girls’ volleyball, and includes upgrades to the high school gymnasium, abatement and flooring replacement of various classrooms, a new bus garage lift and an additional transit dispatcher.
Planned budget-neutral administration restructuring includes making the current interim assistant superintendent for finance and operations a permanent hire; replacing the assistant superintendent for PPS and technology with a director of special education, and adding a director of technology and eliminating a contract consultant; adding an assistant director of special education; making a current K-12 administrator the administrator for safety, security and compliance; and making sure each elementary school has a dedicated assistant principal.
“We thoroughly reviewed each line of this budget,” said school board member Lucy Massafra, who is a member of the Finance Committee. “We started with a tax levy of 3.71 and with many discussions came down to the 2.81 tax levy. I wish we could have found additional savings, but we were informed by our administrators that to continue programs and to keep class sizes as is, this was a solid budget.”
The public vote on the budget and trustee election will be held May 16 from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the high school.
Also on the ballot will be a proposition to allow the district to purchase eight buses at $160,000 each, for a total of $1.28 million, as part of the district’s 12-year bus replacement plan.