Does Rye need a foundation?
Yes we do! As many other communities have already realized, a school foundation to support the public schools is a valuable tool for fundraising for larger and/or extraordinary initiatives important to the entire community. Rye currently has five wonderfully successful parent teacher organizations and the Fund seeks to complement their success. While the Fund and Rye’s five parent teacher organizations are all organizations that exist to provide support critical to Rye schools’ success, the Fund is an organization established solely to raise money and make grants for the betterment of our school district as a whole. It is envisioned as an entity that will serve Rye public education for many years to come. The Fund seeks to develop a general fund to provide flexibility in making grants in support of whole school excellence. The Fund intends to build a broader sense of community responsibility beyond individual school needs and to further unify all five schools and preschools within the district by working closely with their administrative as well as their volunteer leadership. The Fund intends to coordinate with members of each of the five Rye parent organizations and other community members will necessarily play an important and informative role in the Fund as advisors regarding Rye’s school district needs.
Do Other Similar Communities Have Foundations to Support Their School Districts?
Many other communities in Westchester County and beyond have foundations to help provide fiscal support to their academic goals. Quite a few communities have had an educational foundation for decades. The following communities have foundations or other non-PTO (parent teacher organizations) supporting their schools:
Blind Brook (since 1990)
Bronxville (since 1991)
Chappaqua (since 1993)
Edgemont (since 1993)
Tarrytown (since 1993)
Byram Hills (since 1994)
Harrison (since 1994)
Briarcliff Manor (since 1995)
Mamaroneck (since 1996)
Montclair, New Jersey: (1991): Superintendent Dr. Alvarez’s former school district in Montclair, NJ has had an especially successful foundation since 1991: The Montclair Fund for Educational Excellence.
What are some of the fiscal challenges facing Rye’s school district?
As a community, we expect our schools to be among the very best--and they are! The Rye public schools are dedicated to educational excellence and have very high educational standards. However, many financial constraints face Rye and other school districts throughout New York State. These fiscal challenges make it difficult to raise all the tax revenue we need to support the educational excellence we expect. Some of those challenges include:
the New York State school budget tax cap (without corresponding mandate relief);
the New York State multi-year tax freeze budget property tax rebate;
increasing costs outside of district administration’s control such as pension requirements and state-mandated, but unfunded programs;
the Gap elimination adjustment which resulted in significant reduction of New York State aid to Rye schools; and
tax certiorari awards resulting in reduction in tax dollars received by the district.
In addition, unlike many other school districts and because of our district’s success, student enrollment in our public schools has increased significantly over the past several years. That has meant the need for more teachers, expanded building space and increased related costs. It also places more demand upon the type of support the Fund seeks to make possible. Growing enrollment places further pressure on already limited resources. Deemed an affluent community, our school district receives relatively small amounts of state aid. The school district’s budgetary expenditures are illustrated in the chart to the right revealing very little discretionary spending in the district’s budget.
In the context of these fiscal challenges and as many other school districts have already recognized, private funding support is needed to continue cutting-edge school excellence.
I’ve heard student enrollment has been steadily growing. How much is enrollment growing and how is the district addressing that growth?
Unlike many other school districts and because of our district’s success, student enrollment in our public schools has increased significantly over the past several years. (See chart to the right). That has meant the need for more teachers, expanded building space and increased supplies and related costs. The district has hired new teachers and it has expanded learning space with renovation of existing space and the addition of the new high school wing.
How will the Fund help Rye’s school district address fiscal challenges?
Rye’s school district needs both tax dollars for ordinary year-to-year budget items such as teacher salaries and other operating costs and support for non-recurring expenditures that will continue to make educating children in Rye so special. In order to deliver the excellence demanded, the Fund seeks to provide support for the “extras” needed to ensure that cutting-edge resources are available to our teachers and our students.
Rye’s administrators, teachers and its school board do their best each year to achieve excellence for our schools given our budget. But there are often things that our budget cannot cover that are integral to creating a stimulating and challenging learning environment. The school district’s budgetary expenditures are illustrated in the chart below revealing very little discretionary spending in the district’s budget.
While the Fund’s resources are not intended to help fill ordinary budgetary gaps, the Fund seeks to help alleviate the fiscal burden on our school district by providing funds for other important things the district may not be in a position to afford in its budgets. The Fund seeks to provide that extraordinary and critical support needed to supplement our tax dollars toward the end of continuing school excellence and pressing the envelope on educational innovation.
Are Rye’s public schools fiscally well managed?
Rye school district management has been fiscally prudent as borne out by the district’s continued triple AAA rating from Moody’s. Rye’s cost per pupil and our true value tax rate have historically been lower than all of our peer districts. See below charts for 2012 and 2013, respectively.
* Westchester-Putnam School Boards Association facts & Figures 2012
* Westchester-Putnam School Boards Association facts & Figures 2013
Am I getting value for my school property tax dollars?
We think so regardless of whether you are a resident who sends children to Rye public schools or not. Studies have shown school quality is the single most important factor for maintaining strong home values in a community. (See e.g., Nonlinear Effects of School Quality on House Prices, Abbigail J. Chiodo, Ruben Hernandez-Murillo and Michael T. Owyang, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis Review, May/June 2010, 92(3) pp. 185-204). The benefits of strong public schools provide an advantage to all homeowners regardless of school participation because strong schools help Rye property values remain strong. Click this other FAQ link for more information: How does investment in our schools impact Rye’s property values?
Rye Residents who send their children to Rye’s public schools are receiving value for their tax dollars for a second reason. All Rye residents pay school taxes. By paying their taxes, Rye residents who do not use Rye’s public schools (either because they send their children to private schools or because they do not have school age children) are helping to subsidize the schools for all residents. Residents who send their children to Rye’s public schools and who object to their tax bill should consider these facts:
Each child sent to Rye’s public schools costs the district about $22,000 per year to educate
School taxes make up about 66% of each resident’s tax bill
If a family pays $40,000 in property taxes per year, the district receives about $26,400 as school taxes
This is enough money to educate 1.2 children in Rye public schools
If a family paying $40,000 in property taxes sends 2 or more children to the Rye public schools the cost of educating those children exceeds the amount paid in school property taxes each year:
School taxes paid of $26,400 (66% x $40K):
minus $44,000 (the cost of educating 2 children in Rye) = -17,600 shortfall per year
minus $66,000 (the cost of educating 3 children in Rye) = -39,600 shortfall per year
minus $88,000 (the cost of educating 4 children in Rye) = -61,600 shortfall per year
Rye’s cost per pupil and our true value tax rate have historically been lower than all of our peer districts. Click this other FAQ link for more information: Are Rye’s public schools fiscally well managed?
We think all residents receive value for their school property tax dollars. Our taxes school taxes help pay for our schools and help achieve educational excellence and strong property values for all residents in the Rye community.
How does the Fund differ from other community groups seeking donations?
There are many valuable non-profit organizations in Rye deserving of support from community members. These groups, such as the Rye Youth Council, the Rye Nature Center, the Rye Historical Society and the Rye Arts Center do an outstanding job raising money and providing grants and programs to support various services for the community. Many of Rye’s residents benefit from these organizations. Separate from the important roles played by these organizations, the Fund seeks to raise donations solely to enhance arts, athletics and academics in Rye’s public schools. As a community, we have very high standards for our public schools and the top-rated stature of Rye’s public school system is recognized throughout the nation and, in many cases, internationally. The Fund exists to help fulfill the important role of maintaining and improving upon Rye’s educational standards and reputation for years to come.
How does the Fund differ from Friends of Rye City School District?
The Friends of Rye City School District is a grass roots organization dedicated to school excellence and responsible fiscal management. Friends seeks to provide taxpayers with information they need to understand the expenditure of public funds by our school district. Once voters are informed, Friends encourages members of the community to vote in support of the school district. Though both the Fund’s and Friends’ support of the schools is in alignment, the Fund is completely separate from Friends and both organizations are non-partisan. The Fund will seek Friends’ support of the Fund and its various initiatives and programs.
Does the Fund have a mission statement? [Insert hyperlink to the text below] Yes we do. The Rye Fund for Education is committed to enriching the learning experiences of Rye City School students and insuring that they have the confidence and skills necessary to succeed through high school, college and beyond. We believe every student should have the opportunity to become a scholar, an athlete, an artist and a citizen of the world. We seek to enhance the quality of public education in our community by engaging the support and energies of educators, citizens, parents, students, alumni and corporate donors. We will review our mission from time to time to ensure it provides the flexibility required to support the changing needs of Rye’s schools.
What are the Fund’s goals?
The Fund’s general goal is to provide funding to support areas we know are critical to enriching our students’ educational experience and to provide funding for the high quality public school education we have come to expect in Rye. More specifically, the Fund seeks to:
support Rye’s five public schools in the triple areas of academics, arts and athletics;
fund innovative programs enriching the educational experiences of students both inside the classroom and beyond;
inspire and encourage teachers through professional learning opportunities; and
offer residents of Rye a community-led vehicle to contribute to public education and strengthen the future of our community.
How will money be raised for the Fund?
The Fund will seek donations to the general fund and also launch direct letter and other campaigns for specific projects and for development of a general endowment. The Fund will focus on all three areas of need…arts, athletics and academics. The hope is that we will have one letter campaign each year culminating in a large fundraising event and perhaps other smaller events throughout the year that are coordinated and supported by the district’s administration, parents and alumnus of the Rye City Schools.
Are alumni involved in the Fund?
Yes definitely--alumni are very important to the Fund! Our alumni involvement will speak volumes about the important impact Rye’s excellent schools have had on the lives of our alumni. As the Fund expands, we envision board representation by a member of Rye’s alumni. We will include all alumni in our letter campaign. In addition, for each graduating class, the Fund intends to coordinate the sale and dedication of pavers in name of dedicating families for placement in the new science courtyard and walkway areas.
Will the Fund raise funds for core curriculum? For example, will the Fund raise money to fill budget gaps?
Like most educational foundations, the Fund’s mission does not include raising money for ongoing core programs and operating expenses of the schools, including funding teachers’ salaries or those of other professionals. The Rye City Schools are not private schools; they are public and as such taxpayers are obligated to support the ongoing and continuing operating expenses of the schools. The Fund is intended to raise private funds to support efforts ensuring our school district continues its history of academic and extra-curricular excellence and allowing the district to remain competitive with its peer districts.
What are some of the possible projects for funding in each of the arts, academics, and athletics?
The Fund is dedicated to “Triple AAA” -- Arts, Athletics and Academics. The Fund will support programs enriching the educational experiences of Rye students both inside the classroom and beyond. Donors will have an opportunity to choose a particular campaign to support or they may decide to provide donations to a general endowment fund to be distributed by the Fund’s Board of Trustees for the benefit of Rye students. Some possible projects for fundraising campaigns and events include:
Arts: Renovation of the performing arts center and other performing arts enhancements;
Athletics: Construction of a fitness center, construction of a modern field house and renovation of the upper field and restoration of the existing Nugent Field;
Academics: Modernizing the library/media center, literature and writing initiatives, innovation grants for piloting new programs (e.g., Project Lead the Way- new engineering program at Rye High School starting fall 2014); and
Triple AAA: Arts, Athletics & Academics: Teacher professional development, technology and other innovation grants to enhance instruction at all five schools in all three areas: arts, athletics and academics.
What is the process for voting on projects?
As representatives for all our donors, the Fund’s Board of Trustees takes their responsibility in considering all grants very seriously. The Fund will employ a rigorous procedure for evaluating grants submitted and requests will be voted on by the entire Fund Board after a thorough review of the recommendations of the school district leaders, advisors, donors, teachers, alumni and community members. The Fund expects that the distribution of funds will reflect a strong commitment to supporting all three key areas – the arts, athletics, and academics. Donors may provide donations to the general fund, earmark funds for a general area (arts, athletics or academics), or provide support for a particular campaign already launched by the Fund. The Fund anticipates that we will likely be unable to fund every grant request received because it may not meet value criteria or we may have requests for more money than we have to give. The Fund expects that many of the Fund’s campaigns will be recommended by the Superintendent, the administration and/or the school board regarding what the school district needs to continue its excellent record and to excel for years to come. However, the Fund would like for the betterment of our schools to become a bona fide community endeavor. Accordingly, the Fund will consider recommendations from many sources, including donors, teachers, administrators, school board members, alumni, residents and leaders of the parent organizations--with final decisions regarding the disbursement of funds to be made by the Board Trustees.
How will the Fund interface with the school district to ensure the best allocation of funds?
In order to achieve success as an educational foundation, the Fund will necessarily actively engage Rye’s school district leadership. By design, the Superintendent of Schools is an Ex-Officio (non-voting) member of the Fund’s Board of Trustees and a member of the school district’s Board of Trustees serves as a non-voting school board liaison. By actively engaging the school district administration and the school board in this manner, the Board of Trustees seeks to ensure consistency in prioritizing school district needs toward the end of achieving the common good for the school district. While the school board must generally approve gifts to the district, grant decisions will be made by the Fund’s Board of Trustees. The Fund recognizes that good ideas can come from many avenues and we would like for the betterment of our schools to become a bona fide community endeavor. Accordingly, the Fund will consider recommendations from many sources, including donors, teachers, administrators, school board members, alumni, residents and leaders of the parent organizations. In this way, the Fund’s Board of Trustees can receive meaningful input regarding the most important priorities for funding our schools.
Why make a donation to the Fund rather than making a donation directly to the school?
The Fund seeks to create an organized, efficient and methodical means by which special programs and initiatives can be supported collectively by the community consistent with the school district’s stated goals. The Fund seeks to streamline a collective donation process and to create an endowment in order to ensure that gifts impact Rye students in a meaningful way and for years to come.
How does investment in our schools impact Rye’s property values?
Studies have shown school quality is the single most important factor for maintaining strong home values in a community. (See e.g., Nonlinear Effects of School Quality on House Prices, Abbigail J. Chiodo, Ruben Hernandez-Murillo and Michael T. Owyang, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis Review, May/June 2010, 92(3) pp. 185-204). The benefits of strong public schools provide an advantage to all homeowners regardless of school participation. In this rapidly changing, competitive and technology-driven world, it is critical that we have the necessary resources available in our schools in order to maintain the high caliber of programs, the excellent reputation of our schools and our strong property values. The continued quality of our school has a direct impact on the strength of all of our home values whether or not we have children in the schools.
What amount should I give?
Gifts of any size are welcome and they make a difference! While some donors have generously indicated an intention to make sizeable gifts, every gift is meaningful to the Fund regardless of size. Our teachers and students are most fortunate to have this kind of support from the community. The Fund seeks to galvanize global community support for our schools through whatever contribution each family can afford. Giving whatever you can give is appreciated! Community participation in building something great together is valuable for our schools and for the Rye community as a whole.
How can I make a donation or get involved to help the Fund?
The Fund is interested in galvanizing the support of the entire Rye community and it welcomes the financial donations and volunteer spirit of all community members within the Rye City School District as well as donations from any other sources, including bequests, employer matching, charitable trusts and gifts from corporations and individuals. Please always feel free to contact any Fund Officer or member of the Board of Trustees with your ideas and/or to lend your support. To make a tax-deductible donation, simply click the “Donate Now” button on our website (insert website URL here) and follow the prompts or send a check or money order payable to “Rye Fund for Education, Inc.” and addressed to:
Rye Fund for Education, Inc.
Attention: Lora Katsikas, Treasurer
Post Office Box 45
Rye, New York 10580