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North Salem School Budget Talks Continue

NORTH SALEM, N.Y. – Wednesday night’s North Salem Board of Education meeting, the second of four devoted to specific areas of the proposed school budget, drew an unusually large number of people. The meeting began with Superintendent of Schools Ken Freeston’s summary of the current state of the 2012-13 school budget plan.

Freeston reemphasized that the budget is staying within the tax levy cap , thanks to some decisions that were made during the last three years. These included collective bargaining with the teachers’ representatives and a reduction in staff by 29 positions. The overall cumulative savings from the staff reduction alone comes to roughly $2.5 million dollars, he said.

“Even though we are within the cap, we still have to vote on the budget,” he said.

The focus this week was on instructional supervision, instructional teaching, special education and pupil services.

Principals Roberta Reiner of Pequenakonck Elementary and Patricia Cyganovich of North Salem High School reviewed the current status of their schools and described them as “stable,” with very little change in staff and no additional funds required for next year’s future budget.

Although the schools in general have managed to stay within the cap, the special education area is requesting additional funds.

Among the reasons for an increase in the special education budget, Assistant Superintendent of Pupil Personnel Services MaryJo Hauser mentioned an increase in the number of students diagnosed with autism.

“Since 2005, our autism number has more than doubled,” she said. “We’re also seeing a lot more students with complex disabilities.” For example, she described “a student with a learning disability in reading, with severe anxiety, in addition to attention deficit disorder.”

As for pre-school special education (CPSE), Hauser said, “We had 13 pre-school education students in October. We currently have 20 classified CPSE students and we definitely anticipate an increase in the number of children in this program and in our costs.”

She added, “Our English language learners have also increased. Last year it was 21. This year it’s 29.”

In order to address these student needs, Hauser said that they were proposing an increase in staff time including a special education teacher at the high school and an additional paraprofessional at the elementary school.

In conclusion, Hauser said that the committee for special education is requesting an increase of 5 percent over last year’s budget. The 2011/12 budget was $4,303,830. The proposed budget comes to $4,549,766.

The next board of education budget meeting will be March 21. The subject will be instructional media and technology, co-curricular activities and athletics. A public hearing on the budget will occur on May 2. Voting day is May 15.

Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated that more special education students were being sent outside of the district and that the special education department was anticipating no staff changes.

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