BEDFORD, N.Y. - Decision time is near for the Bedford Central School District’s Board of Education. At its meeting Wednesday, Superintendent Jere Hochman will give board members the administration’s recommendation for the district’s capital plan.
The proposal is based on data culled from over two years of public engagement sessions: capital planning committee meetings, sustainability meetings, budget advisory meetings, informational presentations, district surveys and, recently, a communications fair.
Bedford board members have until their Feb. 27 meeting to decide which aspects of the proposed bond issue to approve. Their approved version will eventually become the proposal put before the voters in October.
However, some school district residents, such as Bedford resident Mike Solomon, remain skeptical of the capital plan’s scope. Financial sustainability, he said, is a concern when it comes to the bond issue, the maximum last reported as around $75 million.
“I can't advocate anyone's support for the capital plan until the board can show the community that, in fact, our finances, our operating budgets together with the very large borrowing we are doing, is in fact financially sustainable, which I suspect it's not,” Solomon said at a board public forum in January.
Currently, the plan covers building improvements across the district, including a complete overhaul of West Patent Elementary School, improvements to Fox Lane Middle School's science labs and cafeteria, district-wide security concerns, various infrastructure issues and repairing the Fox Lane campus track and field.
Construction cost estimators hired by the district have “scrubbed” the numbers and the budget advisory committee has looked at the district's borrowing capacity, according to a recent Bedford Buzz video focusing on the capital plan process.
Currently,a $5 million operations budget deficit is forecast for the coming year, which can be attributed to employee pension plan contribution increases and the new five-year transportation five-year contract, a situation that may present a risk personnel cuts, Hochman said in the video.
Solomon argues that this deficit, combined with the large bond issue, will mean higher school budgets in he future, which will then be shouldered by the taxpayers.
But Hochman said community support for the plan has been made clear, in part via a recent phone survey of 500 district residents showing a 51.6 percent approval for the plan versus 40.1 percent opposed. Some residents, however, believe this sample size too small to be accurate.
"In spite of all of our efforts to impose our own tax cap in recent years, still everyone is feeling the pinch of taxes and we are mindful of that,” Hochman said, so the district's final plan will employ every possible cost saving measure, like investing in green technology for future savings.