Proposed Budget Carries 0% Tax Levy Increase
At the March 21 Board of Education Meeting, Eastchester Superintendent Dr. Ronald Valenti officially unveiled a $101,856,200 budget proposal for the 2023-2024 school year. The proposal, which provides funding for a number of new initiatives across the district, represents an increase of just over $5.6 million from the 2022-23 budget, but at no additional expense to the average taxpayer.
Factoring in over $3 million of Foundation Aid the district is receiving from New York State, Dr. Valenti’s proposal carries a 0.0% tax levy increase and will cost the average Eastchester taxpayer eight dollars less than they paid last year, according to projections. The lack of a tax levy increase is notable, explained Dr. Valenti, as it provides a unique break for taxpayers while also affording the district the opportunity to proceed with various school-improvement programs.
“This is the last year of the Foundation Aid increase,” he said. “If there’s ever an opportunity to say thank you to a community for their generosity over the years, this is that moment.”
The proposed budget allots $75,222,437 for program operations next year, which will allow the district to make significant improvements across each of the three strategic priority areas (Strengthening School Security, Improving Academic Outcomes, and Strengthening College Career and Counseling Services) identified by Dr. Valenti and the Board of Education last July.
Funding for additional SROs, the launch of elementary-level global language programs, the hiring of additional literacy and math instructors, and the recruitment of a Director of College, Career and Counseling Services for the high school are among several of the initiatives outlined in the proposed budget.
These proposals were previously put before the public during a February survey that saw an overwhelming majority of community members voice their support for the programs.
Dr. Valenti explained that the results of the survey were instrumental in informing administrators as they constructed a budget proposal tailored to the needs of the district.
“What those results showed me is that Eastchester, as a community, is very serious about academic improvement, providing safety for our children, and they want us to take a long look at our career and college readiness programs,” said Dr. Valenti. “You are able to build the budget knowing that you have the support of the community on these very critical parts of education, which only strengthens the resolve to do more.”
Board of Education Trustee Matthew Fanelli, who serves on the board’s finance committee, highlighted just how rare it is for the community to see a school budget proposal that allows for growth and innovation without placing additional burdens on taxpayers.
“In the 26 years that we can go back, we’ve never had a zero percent [tax levy increase], and the reason I want to highlight that is because it’s a significant impact to the families of this community and the seniors of this community,” said Fanelli. “And the fact that we’re being additive to our children in terms of programs and security . . . it’s all about the students.”
Vito Catania, now in his eighth three-year term on the school board, echoed Fanelli’s sentiments and applauded the proposal for its scope.
“Whenever our revenue has gone up significantly, we haven’t been able to give anything back, we’ve always found a way to spend it, always found a way to tax to the cap.” said Catania. “This gives us a little faith in the system that we can do something like that and make improvements without suffering.”
Over the next few weeks, the public will hear more about what is included in the proposed budget, a finalized version of which will be adopted by the Board of Education at its meeting on April 18. The Public Budget Hearing is scheduled for May 2, and the Public Budget Vote will be held on May 16.
As the budget process moves along, Dr. Valenti is hopeful that community stakeholders—both those who have children in the school district and those who do not—will find the proposal to be a boon to the town as a whole.
“This is a time to say thank you to a tax paying community and continue to innovate programs as well,” said Dr. Valenti. “We're really delivering the best of two worlds.”