The bond vote for the Bedford Central School District's large capital plan has been pushed back from March to October, based on feedback from school board members.
The board members, who agreed with the change at Wednesday's meeting, responded to a delay recommendation from Superintendent Jere Hochman. He cited the fact that the review process for a 2013-14 annual budget would coincide with a March vote - the district is looking at a possible $5 million to $6 million gap to close - pinning down the level of state and federal funding, doing more analysis of the cost, and being able to give more specific answers to questions that people in the community have about the proposal.
“There are going to be tough decisions to be made and we don't want folks even making one comparison between one and the other and throwing each other off," Hochman said about trying to avoid having the budget process and capital plan coincide with each other.
Board members reacted favorably
“I'm betting that pretty much every board member here is thinking this is a very sound recommendation and embrace it wholeheartedly," said board President Susan Wollin.
Board member Erika Long, describing both the budget and capital plan, said she felt like “there's a lot to process,” and that it would be better to separate the two.
Under a new timeline, the public will get a chance to give input on the capital plan at the school board's Jan. 9, 2013 meeting. The board, at a Jan. 23 meeting, would then agree with what it supports conceptually. That meeting date had previously been eyed for having the board vote on whether to put the proposal up for a referendum, which would have had a March 12 date as the goal.
Priorities for the Bond Take Shape
Considerable time was spent at the board meeting, which lasted roughly four hours, going over prioritization for the plan. With that in mind, and with feedback form a technical committee, items being eyed for the bond were split into categories of interest: "Must Do," "Should Do," and "Would Like To Have."
Big ticket items, such as interior and exterior renovations of West Patent Elementary School, along with new science labs and a larger cafeteria at Fox Lane Middle School, were deemed as Must Do. Some other major items considered, such as expanding the library and cafeteria at West Patent, were ranked as Would Like to Haves. Items that were placed in the Should Do category included making a new front entrance for Fox Lane Middle School that would help with security and installing air conditioning in the newer, 3-story sections of Fox Lane High School.
If all items currently being considered for the bond were in it, the estimated cost now is in the $73 million range, down from a more-than-$75 million cited earlier this month. The numbers still have not been looked at by outside experts who would be added for the review.
Board member Jennifer Gerken questioned the need for doing the expansions of West Patent's library and cafetorium, citing cost. She also supported adding air conditioning to the high school's newer sections - the upper floors have been cited for hot temperatures and lack of easy to open windows - and improving the middle school's entrance. In the case of the later, however, she expressed concern about doing so given the school's layout, which provides other ways to get to the middle school.
West Patent and middle school parent Christina Dochtermann, who chairs a group tasked with getting word out about the capital plan, argued that West Patent is in an inequitable situation with other elementary schools because it does not have adequate auditorium space. Responding, Assistant Superintendent for Business Mark Betz was open to the idea of making West Patent's gym better suited as assembly space.
Board member Eric Karle wondered if improving the middle school's entrance was like the Maginot Line, referencing a French security apparatus meant to stop a German invasion that failed during World War II because an alternate route was taken.
Middle School Principal AnneMarie Berardi strongly defended having a new entrance - the proposal would include creating a secure space for someone to wait and better sight from the principal's office - and noted that when people bypass the current front and go to the houses within the middle school it become an issue of finding them.
Board member Lee Goldstein wants to make sure that nothing else is added to the proposal. She wants the district to have credibility, fiscally speaking, if it winds up in a situation where it may need to ask voters to override the annual tax levy cap for a a budget in the coming years.
To see the full update on the capital plan, click here for video of the board's meeting.