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Peekskill Schools Begin 2012-13 Budget Planning

PEEKSKILL, N.Y. – Facing a $2.5 million deficit and a $1.5 million increase in special education costs, the Peekskill City School District will be making hard decisions on how to pay for the 2012-13 school year.

The district expects to spend approximately $76 million, with $21.8 million for general education and $14 million to fund special education in the district.

The board had a long discussion about how to make up that $4 million shortfall. The most common way to do so among school districts is to use money from the district's fund balance, money put aside for emergency and unexpected expenses.

Superintendent of Schools James Willis explained that if the fund balance was used up for the upcoming school year the district would have to start cutting staff the next year if they didn't start doing things differently.

"This will cover the budget for next year, but beyond next year we're going to have a hard time," Willis said of the 2012-13 school year.

The district has about $4.5 million in its fund balance, with $2.8 million set aside in its appropriated undesignated fund balance that it can put towards the budget gap and an additional $4.4 million put aside for tax certiorari settlements, according to Assistant Superintendent for Business and Administrative Services Greg Sullivan.

But since the district may see a similar shortfall next year, school board members were hesitant to use up that that entire fund for the coming year. School board President Joe Urbanowitz and Trustee Marcela Bobe both told district officials they needed to start thinking about long-term solutions.

"We need to start thinking now about what we're going to do differently so next year we're not having this conversation, and the only solution is cuts," Bobe said.

Urbanowicz urged the board to plan ahead for at least the next three years and asked administrators to put in place a budget freeze.

"Use those reserves or portions of those reserves over three years and start doing things differently now," suggested.

The district had little room to consolidate classrooms if teachers had to be let go due to current classroom sizes but said that option should be explored as well, Willis said.

The board scheduled an additional meeting on Tuesday, March 27 to further discuss the budget.

The district still has a good amount of time to put together that plan. This year's budget vote and school board election will be held on Tuesday, May 15. The board will adopt the budget to be voted on several weeks before and will post it on the district website.

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