May 16, 2014

A yes vote for Bedford Central budget

The process of developing school budgets in Bedford Central gets earlier and earlier every year. This administration knows that in the world of budgets, tomorrow is right around the corner and forecasts can change as quickly as the weather. Last September the district got an early jump on the process, issuing budget goals and guidelines to serve as a “litmus test of a prudent budget.”

Among the goals were student achievement; a challenging, comprehensive curriculum; enhanced productivity; operation efficiency and environmental sustainability; slowed expenditure growth with long-term structural financial changes and program retention; and tax affordability.

Voters are being asked to weigh in on a $126.5 million budget, a 1.15 percent rise from last year. With a preliminary budget of $128,637,429, the district cut budget costs and utilized reserve funds to help close a $5 million funding gap needed to get to the current budget level.

Much of the discussion about this year’s budget session focused on how the district filled that gap. With initial estimated available funding valued at $123.5 million, the district is taking $3 million from reserve funds, both unassigned and designated, which directs money to certain specified purposes, and enacted budget cuts to meet the extra $2 million needed to fill the gap. The district proposes to replenish the designated reserve with money it has accrued from tax assessments.

The debate for taxpayers is should the district utilize those reserve funds, especially with forecasts showing future reserve funds dropping precipitously? Or should the district make program cuts to close the gap? The numbers are clearly worthy of serious contemplation. Some projections have indicated a potential $7 million gap in 2018. We are lucky to have the reserve funds now to offset these costs, but voters should not count on them in the future.

The 2014-15 budget keeps all programs, terminates some teachers, proposes a moderate 3 percent raise for teachers and stays under the state-mandated tax cap. It reflects board and administration responsiveness to an environment that relies on cost controls and getting more for less. It recognizes the need to fundamentally negotiate work terms and contracts for staff at every level in an effort to achieve both fairness and affordability.

We urge a yes vote for the budget and a clear eye to the future as Bedford Central prepares to buckle in for what could be expensive times.

Yes in Katonah-Lewisboro

It’s not often that you see spending decrease as significantly as it is doing in Katonah-Lewisboro. Much of it is due to lower enrollment, with a matching drop in student costs. In 2013-14, there were 3,374 students enrolled in the district; next year the student population is projected at 3,202, a 5.10 percent drop.

Last year’s budget was almost $115 million; this year the proposed 2014-15 budget is $111,162,832, a 3.24 percent drop.

In a perfect world, the tax cost would drop proportionally with the enrollment decline, but fixed and rising costs throughout the system cut into potential savings.

Even with STAR rebates, the burden of the district’s taxes are still beyond many residents. The district has one of the highest per-pupil costs of any public school district in the country. Board members will need to continue to address this.

The question is, did this board do the best and most effective job it could to get value per taxpayer dollar?

We think it has. The proposed budget includes the implementation of full-day kindergarten, preservation of programs and courses, and maintenance of reasonable class sizes. In addition, staffing has been increased to comply with state mandates.

The district’s transition from a self-funded to a premium-based health insurance reduces budgeted expenses more than $3.4 million. The closure of Lewisboro Elementary School, which was approved by the board of education in January, results in a recurring savings totaling $1.9 million.

The closing of Lewisboro Elementary School was a bold move, but it further divided an often-fractious school district. But board members should be commended for addressing lowered attendance and taking action by consolidating schools as needed. This is part of a trend throughout the state, and future savings from consolidations of services should be studied by the new board.

Voter approval of Proposition No. 2 would authorize the district to purchase five school buses and a wheelchair-accessible van as well as a utility truck. The total cost for these would not exceed $872,500.

In Proposition No. 3, the district plans to use additional funds to pay for repairs to the school’s track, with turf replacement, track replacement and stormwater management, the engineering costs not to exceed $1.62 million. The district seeks the use of surplus funds from health savings to pay for both the track upgrades and the replacement buses, and asks voters to approve this plan. We believe both propositions are good ones and a sensible use of funds for district taxpayers.

Read more local coverage of your hometown in this week’s issue of the The Record-Review. Newsstand copies are available at several locations listed above, or subscribe today for convenient home delivery.

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Pound Ridge/Scotts Corners

  1. Scotts Corner Market – Trinity Corners Shopping Center;  55 Westchester Avenue

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  3. Sam Parker Country Market — 257 Westchester Avenue    

Bedford Village

  1. Bedford Rexall Pharmacy — Hunting Ridge Mall; 424 Old Post Road  

  2. Village Green Deli — Village Green; Routes 22 and 172    

  3. Bedford Shell — Routes 22 and 172 (at blinking light); 848 So. Bedford Road

  4. Village Service Center —193 Pound Ridge Road (at Long Ridge Road intersection)    

Bedford Hills

  1. Bedford Hills Deli – 7 Babbitt Road    

  2. Bueti’s Deli – 526 Bedford Road (Route 117)


  1. NoKA Joe’s – 25 Katonah Avenue    

  2. Steger’s Paper Mill – 89 Katonah Avenue    

  3. Katonah Pharmacy – Katonah Shopping Center; 294 Katonah Avenue   

  4. Bagel Shoppe – Katonah Shopping Center; 280 Katonah Avenue    

  5. Katonah Sunoco – 105 Bedford Road

Mount Kisco

  1. Teamo/Mt. Kisco News – 239 Main Street    

Cross River

  1. Bagel Boys Café – Cross River Shopping Center; Routes 121 and 35    

  2. Cross River Shell Station – Route 35    

  3. Cameron’s Deli –  890 Route 35    

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