After months of deliberation, projections and revisions, the Bedford school board settled on a $118,980,000 budget proposal during Wednesday’s school board meeting.
The school board unanimously approved the spending plan, which represents a 2.15 percent increase from this year’s budget and a 1.8 percent increase from this year’s tax levy. District residents will have an opportunity to vote on the proposal on May 17.
Mark Chernis, a member of the school board, said district administrators made the budget process look almost effortless this year. But he said the effort that went into creating the budget proposal shouldn’t mask the difficulty school officials will have dealing with teacher and employee retirement benefits now and in the future.
“Without meaningful pension reform, it is going to be increasingly difficult for you guys to be able to do this,” Chernis said.
Susan Elion Wollin, the school board president, also called on state officials to provide relief to school districts from the Triborough Amendment of the Taylor Law. The Triborough Amendment allows school employees to keep many of the terms that were included in their last contract once the deal has expired and a new one hasn’t been worked out.
Wollin noted that Bedford schools has cut more than 60 staff positions in the last three years and said a lot of that was caused by the lack of flexibility given to school districts in the Taylor Law.
“Until we get legislative relief on some of these issues, we’re going to be facing the same dilemma every year,” Wollin said.
The proposal approved on Wednesday is slightly different from the $118,921,000 budget .
Mark Betz, the assistant superintendent for business and administrative services, said the new proposal takes into account that the district will receive $94,289 more in state aid than was initially anticipated.
An additional $58,000 in cuts were made due to retirements, while $38,000 in reductions were made to the staff conference, workshop and travel lines. The amount budgeted for legal fees was also cut by $15,000.
However, $170,000 in expenses were added back in the budget to restore two elementary school teachers.
“During the month of March, we have completed most of the registrations at this point and we have the numbers,” Betz said. “We realized that some of those kindergarten numbers are coming in higher than we expected and in addition, we’ve had registration in other grade levels that are pushing some of the numbers.”
Estimates have tax rates increasing by 11.20 percent in Mt. Kisco, 7.25 percent in New Castle, 3.40 percent in North Castle and 2.86 percent in Pound Ridge. The tax rate in Bedford would decrease by 3.01 percent.
The estimated tax rates per $1,000 of assessed value in the budget proposal are as follows:
Mt. Kisco $62.34
Pound Ridge $75.71
New Castle $63.17
North Castle $568.18