Bedford school officials presented their budget proposal in front of an audience composed of two reporters and Thomas Briggs, the school’s director of buildings and grounds, during Wednesday's state-mandated public hearing before the May 17 budget vote.
Regardless of the audience size, the message behind the district’s $118,980,000 budget proposal for 2011-2012 remained the same. This year’s budget is nothing more than a means to an end.
“I will be very brief to remind you, as we have at every one of our presentations, that we are looking at this budget as part of a longer strategy and you have heard us talk about all of those impacts that we will be studying over the next six-to-12 months that are still unknown to us,” said Jere Hochman, superintendent of Bedford schools.
The budget proposal represents a 2.15 percent increase from this year’s budget. The tax levy, which is the portion of the budget that is paid through property taxes, will increase by 1.8 percent.
The estimated tax rates per $1,000 of assessed value in the budget proposal are as follows:
- Bedford will decrease by -3.01 percent to $121.49
- Mt. Kisco will increase by 11.2 percent to $62.34
- Pound Ridge will increase by 2.86 percent to $75.71
- New Castle will increase by 7.25 percent to $63.17
- North Castle will increase by 3.4 percent to $568.18
Board members made it a point to say that the wild fluctuations that occur in the tax rates from year to year are caused by the equalization rates set by the state and are out of the district’s hands.
An equalization rate is a ratio of the locally-determined assessed value of taxable real property to the Office of Real Property Tax Services' estimate of market value.
“I think the important part for the community to realize and for everybody to understand is, independent of the budget in any way shape and form, equalization rates will change— if the budget is slashed, if absolutely nothing happens to the budget, whatsoever, their tax rates will move around,” said Mark Chernis, vice president of the school board.
Mark Betz, the district’s assistant superintendent for business and administrative services, said state-mandated pension cost increases, health care claim costs, salary increases were some of the biggest factors behind next year’s budget proposal. Pension costs alone are expected to increase by $2 million, which is more than the estimated tax levy increase.
Things that have helped to keep the proposed budget increase low include a $366,000 reduction in debt service and a $250,000 reduction in salaries for retiring staff.
The district has also reduced budgets for equipment purchases, supplies, services, conferences and utilities by $156,000; consolidated two school bus runs for $130,000 in savings; and reduced custodial overtime for $97,000 in savings.
The spending will cut 4.25 full-time equivalent teaching positions for about $345,000 in savings and 9 full-time equivalent civil servant positions for a cost reduction of $216,000.
Contingency Budget Presented
The district’s contingency budget would be $118,403,681, which represents an increase of about 1.65 percent from this year’s budget.
A contingency budget is state mandated budget that restricts school districts from spending on items which are considered non-contingency expenses such as student supplies, community use of buildings and grounds, certain equipment purchases and certain salary increases.
School districts have the option of going directly to a contingency budget if their first budget proposal is defeated, but are required to go to a contingency budget if their proposed spending plans are defeated twice.
If the district is forced to use a contingency budget, it would result in .5 percent decrease in tax rates.
“So a question you might be getting from the public is ‘if I vote this budget down, will I not have to be pay increased taxes in Mt. Kisco,” Betz said. “The answer to that is no. You’re going to have to pay over a 10 percent increase no matter what we do.”
Items that would have to be cut under a contingency budget include all non-essential equipment, costs for Parent-Teacher Association and community use of facilities, salary increases for nine non-unit employees, capital improvements and other non-essential services.
Additional budget information can be found here.
Six Awarded Tenure at Bedford
The district awarded to tenure to these five individuals:
- Dara Getler, kindergarten teacher at Bedford Hills Elementary School
- Christine Goodrow, teacher at Mount Kisco Elementary School
- Claudia Pacifico, special education teacher at Fox Lane Middle School
- Lindsay Lappin, art teacher Fox Lane High School and the Hillside alternative high school
- FLHS Christopher O’Gorman, science teacher at the ACES alternative high school
- Andrew Patrick, assistant superintendent for instruction and development
Tenure is granted to a district employee after a three-year probationary period, during which employees write annual goals and are observed and evaluated on their associated job tasks. Tenure indicates a permanent employment status.