The Record-Review – The official newspaper of Bedford and Pound Ridge, New York

 

Bedford Central budget election results

By NATALIA BAAGE-LORD
SCOTT MULLIN PHOTO

The newest school board member, Andrew Bracco, who was elected to the school board on Tuesday night.

 

The $122.7 million Bedford Central budget for 2012-2013 passed by a vote of 1,769 to 624. Susan Elion Wollin, Andrew Bracco and Lee Goldstein were all elected to the board.

Nearly 2,400 Bedford community members headed to the polls on Tuesday, May 15, and most chose to support the district’s budget, which protects academic programs and supports a new teacher and principal evaluation process.

“This was a true community effort,” Dr. Jere Hochman, Bedford Central’s superintendent, wrote in an email interview. “From the first time I learned about the school budget from the board, the staff, parents, and specifically from concerned community members, we knew we had to address the trajectory of spending increases.”

The approved budget of $122,698,040 is roughly $3.7 million higher than last year’s, with a 2.69 percent tax levy increase. While the board set aside over $1 million for capital improvements focused on health and safety improvements, 55 staff positions were terminated.

“It was the best budget we could put together under the circumstances, and we are focused on that in the future and continuing to work under the leadership of Superintendent Hochman and his team,” said Ms. Wollin.

The newly accepted 2012-2013 budget is approximately $1.5 million less than the board’s initial offering of $124.2 million. The board was able to keep 15 more staff than initially anticipated, but several cuts still had to be made, including bus route consolidations, decreases in energy use and a reduction of extracurricular clubs.

“It has been a lot of work,” Ms. Wollin said of the budget season. “This is an important day for school boards and the administrative team throughout New York State.”

The town of Bedford will see a property tax hike of nearly 8.5 percent, while Pound Ridge, Mount Kisco, New Castle and North Castle will all see slight tax rate decreases.

Ms. Wollin, Ms. Goldstein and Mr. Bracco, who all ran unopposed, were elected to the board. In July, Ms. Wollin will begin her 10th year on the board. As a former student of the district herself, Ms. Wollin said that she provides rare views of how the school district has been run.

“Our focus is on kids and education first and providing budgets that our community can afford,” she said. “We are gratified by the community’s support.”

While Mr. Bracco has spent the past six months on the board, he was elected to continue and finish out his first full term. Last year he was appointed to the board as a replacement for his predecessor, Mark Chernis, who stepped down in November.

“It feels good,” said Mr. Bracco. “I’m enjoying the work. I’m enjoying the people I’m working with. The budget was made in really good faith. I think we’re setting ourselves up well to see this thing through.”

In the upcoming years Mr. Bracco will aim to continue a high level of transparency and communication between the board and the public. He also wants to “do more with less” as the district is forced to deal with difficult tax cap limitations and unfunded mandates. 

Ms. Goldstein, the only new member elected to the board, will take the seat of current board member Graham Anderson, who chose to fight for educational change at the state level. She will join the board’s endeavor to plan ahead for the district’s future.

“I’m looking forward to joining the board and serving the community,” she said. “There is so much to learn. I have my work cut out for me this summer.”

In the upcoming year, Ms. Wollin said that she wants the board to focus on educating the Bedford Central community about the Annual Professional Performance Review, as well as working to find new fundraising initiatives.

Dr. Hochman said that he is fortunate to have talented board members and administrators who work well together to provide the district with quality information.

“Over the past four years, I have been so impressed with how everyone, truly everyone, has been eager to come to the table to listen, learn, and then share their opinions,” he said. “That has been quite productive, as we have changed that trajectory while hopefully preserving the core of who the Bedford Central School District is and our mission for every child’s success.”

Ms. Goldstein and Ms. Wollin will begin their three-year terms on July 1, ending on June 30, 2015. Mr. Bracco’s unexpired term continued the day after the vote, expiring on June 30, 2014.


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MAy 18, 2012