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Ossining Board of Education, Budget Votes Slated for May 15

OSSINING, N.Y. – Dana Levenberg is hoping May 15 will mean the passing of the Ossining School Board’s proposed budget and the start of her third term on the board.

Levenberg, incumbent Kimberly Case and newcomer Sharon Abreau will vie for two spots on the Ossining Union Free School District ’s Board of Education on May 15, the same night that district voters will decide on the recently approved 2012-13 budget proposal. Abreau is seeking her first term on the school board.

“I’ve lived here my whole life and I’d like to try and make a difference,” Abreau said Monday. “And I think our schools are very important for our community.”

The board of education agreed Wednesday to accept the budget proposal that ultimately increases the tax levy about 2.92 percent from 2011-12. But Levenberg and other board members say that the increase is shy of the allowable 3.23 percent increase.

“I think it’s always tough but I’m very happy that we’ve been able to stay under that allowable increase,” Levenberg said Monday. “I think it’s challenging to try to communicate that message to the voters but when you look around and see that so many other school districts are looking to override that tax cap I think that says something. We’re not looking to do override that tax cap or even meet it.”

The proposal cuts 11.4 full-time equivalent positions and $3.3 million in non-classroom cuts, according to the district’s website. Board members are also quick to point out that the Ossining Union Free School District’s enrollment is expected to increase to 4,735 students from the 4,455 this year while per-pupil state aid is dropping to $2,625 from $2,906.

“Doing this at a time of increasing enrollment is difficult,” Levenberg said. “The fact that we were able to cut that $3.3 million and those staff cuts mean that trying to maintain our classroom sizes in the future is going to be our challenge.”

Levenberg said it was an easy decision to decide to run for her third term on the school board.

“Why does anybody decide to run? Because the schools are the backbone of our community and I believe in our school district,” Levenberg said. “I think being a part of making sure that we maintain our great school district in the face of tough times is very important.”

Board President Bill Kress said it could be challenge to show voters that a 2.93 percent increase to the tax levy is the best option.

“At the end of the day with all of the unfunded mandates and increased costs that we have no control over, I think we’re still staying under our tax cap limit,” Kress said, adding that he was very happy that the proposed budget included more than $3.3 million in cuts. “We had no choice and this is not really an increase in my mind at the end of the day because of that.”

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