Registered voters in the Rye Neck Union Free School District overwhelmingly approved the 2017-2018 school budget that keeps the district under the tax cap for six consecutive years.
On Tuesday, voters approved the $40.1 million budget with an official tally of 876 voting in favor of the plan and 239 against it.
“We’re feeling tremendous support from our community with the passing of this budget,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Barbara Ferraro said. “This is a big community win.”
In drafting this year’s plan, the superintendent described keeping the budget within the state-mandated tax cap as the “biggest challenge” school districts face on a yearly basis.
The district will remain under the cap of 1.26 percent for the sixth year in a row with approximately $1.1 million in exclusions, which increases the estimated tax levy by 0.72 percent.
In the town of Rye, the estimated property tax rate increase will be 0.35 percent; it will increase by 4.74 percent for those living in the city of Rye.
With an overall $233,985 decrease in spending from the current year’s budget, the approved plan allocates money to add 6.1 full-time positions—2.7 teaching positions and 3.4 assistant teaching positions—and also preserves a number of current programs, including full-time kindergarten and the district’s arts, music and athletic programs.
The well-supported plan will additionally fund an expansion of the district’s STEAM program, which incorporates a mix of science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics concepts into one lesson.
Ferraro told the Review the budget helps the school district address voters’ concerns which include keeping taxes down while also maintaining appropriate class sizes and preserving extracurricular activities.
The enrollment rate for the upcoming school year is projected to increase by 0.31 percent after increasing by 4 percent in the last two tears.
Aside from passing the budget, voters also elected two members to serve on the Board of Education, including its vice president, Deborah Aulfinger, who was re-elected with 714 votes to serve her third, three-year term.
Aulfinger, who has two children in the school district, has been a resident of the district for 24 years and a board member since 2011. And Jennifer Ruben, who has three children in the school district, captured 822 votes and was elected to serve her first term on the board. She’s lived in Rye Neck for 19 years.
Louisa Visconti, who was also bidding for her first term on the school board, was defeated finishing in third place with 432 votes.
“We were fortunate to have three people that were interested in serving on the board,” said Dr. Kimberly Bucci, assistant superintendent for business and finance. Dr. Kimberly Bucci. “Board service is really important for a school district and we’re fortunate that people are willing to dedicate their free time in serving and attending meetings.”