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Letter: North Salem School District Misleads by Omissions

NORTH SALEM, N.Y. — TheDailyNorthSalem.com accepts signed, original letters to the editor. Letters may be e-mailed to letters@thedailynorthsalem.com.

The North Salem Central School District seems very proud that the proposed budget represents an increase of only 1.99 percent. Of course, they fail to mention that excluding the teachers’ salaries, the increase is really more like 6 percent of the rest of the budget categories. Also they do not mention that their percentage change is distorted by the base year 2011-12 including bus replacements of $100,000 while the proposed budget contains $0 for transportation equipment.

Our teachers stood up and “recognized the economic challenges facing our district” and agreed to a freeze in salary “steps” for the next year. They deserve to be commended.

The district paid publications did not mention that the seven highest paid employees, all administrative personnel, each with total compensation in excess of $200,000, are each receiving increases in varying amounts as high as 7 percent. Although I have written to each board member suggesting a similar freeze for administrative personnel, it apparently fell on deaf ears and I never received a response to the suggestion.

What they also failed to tell us is that:

1. The student headcount (1,300) continues to decline, as it has during the past 10 years; yet they are proud that no programs have been curtailed in any way. Can we really justify having a superintendent, two assistant superintendents, two principals and more? A representative of the district stated in writing, “We are too small to be run efficiently.” We sure should be trying harder.

2. Our district is one of the most expensive on a total cost per student basis in all of Westchester County, yet our students continue to only score right near the average of all Westchester students on the SAT exams. (The proposed budget represents per average student total expenditures of $30,200 per year. Based on information provided by the district, the average cost per student on a standard track is approximately $28,000 per year while the cost on average for each of the 160 students in special ed programs is approximately $48,000 per year.)

3. Our teacher headcount is higher than it should be in comparison to the better districts in Westchester.

4. Our district is one of the most expensive on a cost per student basis for transportation in all of Westchester County. We provide transportation services significantly in excess of that mandated by the state.

5. The district spends more than $1 million in total custodial compensation to clean two buildings.

All of the above I have conveyed in writing to the board, and they have taken no action on any of the suggestions.

The district publication, “Compass,” fails to disclose the amount, or terms of, the bond issue to be voted upon as Proposition 2. Nor did they mention that the cost of transportation equipment to be purchased by the funds from Proposition 2, which I believe to be $500,000, has historically been funded from operating budgets. Other than making the budget numbers look good, why are we now issuing long-term bonds for transportation equipment?

I am very proud of what the teachers have done in not taking increases in the coming year; I am not proud of the failure by the board to recognize economic realities.

Please vote NO on May 15, thereby sending the board a message. They can then resubmit a budget that addresses the district’s needs.

Bill Lang

North Salem

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