With budget season around the corner, the Bedford Central School District Budget Advisory Committee is kicking into high gear with its review of district finances and recommendations for the future. “The pressing questions now, are the future COVID expenses, opening schools going forward, how much to tax at this difficult time, and where to invest our savings to improve student growth,” said Robert Mazurek, a member of the BAC.
The advisory group, which meets approximately once per month, is charged by the BCSD Board of Education with providing input and insight to the BOE and its finance subcommittee on topics related to budget and finance. Committee members provide analysis of district revenues and expenditures, long-range financial and capital planning, reserve planning and comparisons of fiscal and district performance with other school districts.
Although its discussions are pertinent to the broader BCSD community, since the BAC is an advisory committee, the district is not required to stream its meetings to the public. The committee is also not required to keep minutes since it does not fall under the Open Meetings Regulations.
To gain an understanding of BAC operations and recent discussions, The Record-Review recently spoke with Mr. Mazurek, who has been on the committee since 2016.
“Based on the information provided to the BAC to date, the district finds itself on solid financial ground,” he said in an interview. “So far, through December, COVID expenses appear to be less than expected.” Per a COVID expense report provided to the committee, the district has spent $900,000 for COVID-related expenses so far this year, of the $2.5 million allocated from reserves earlier this year. “We prepared for incurring expenses and we haven’t even spent half of that,” Mr. Mazurek said.
Given the district’s financial situation, committee member Steve Matlin suggested a novel solution to the community’s growing desire for a return to in-person instruction. During a BAC meeting held Monday, Mr. Matlin proposed that BCSD take advantage of two vacant buildings within the district which were formerly schools — St. Patrick’s School in Bedford Village and Rippowam Cisqua School’s now vacant campus on Route 172. He requested the district administration to enter into discussions with one or both of these schools to allow the use of their buildings for the rest of the academic year.
If this arrangement were successful, Mr. Matlin suggested the district could then move one or more grades from Mount Kisco Elementary School and West Patent Elementary School to one of the new locations. This transfer would create the room needed for an equal number of additional students to attend school full time in MKES and WPES, Mr. Matlin said.
While addressing the issue of classroom space, Mr. Matlin’s suggested plan would require administrators to pin down numerous logistical issues, including finding available staffing, transportation, food service and custodial services.
During a presentation at the Feb. 10 Board of Education meeting about expanding in-person instruction, Superintendent Joel Adelberg said the district would look into the proposal put forth by Mr. Matlin. BOE President Colette Dow said the district already has an arrangement with St. Patrick’s School to rent a portion of its building for storage. “So, arguably, if we want to keep our students in our schools, we could ask them if we could expand that,” she said at the BOE meeting.
The district’s finance committee, which is separate from the budget advisory committee, is scheduled to meet from 9:30 to 11 a.m. Friday, Feb. 26. Those meetings are available to the public via streaming. Another public meeting is scheduled for March 6, where the community can learn more about the budget planning process for the next school year, including departmental budget requests.