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Bedford School Budget Comes Under Tax Cap, Includes Cuts

Bedford Schools Superintendent Jere Hochman speaks at a budget talk in Bedford Hills. Photo Credit: Tom Auchterlonie
Mark Betz, Bedford Central's assistant superintendent for business, speaks at a budget talk in Bedford Hills. Photo Credit: Tom Auchterlonie
A photo of a chart showing widely different projected tax-rate impacts for Bedford Central's five towns as part of the proposed school budget. Photo Credit: Tom Auchterlonie

BEDFORD HILLS, N.Y. -- The Bedford Central School District's proposed 2015-16 budget will have tax levy and spending increases of less than one percent.

Total spending is at nearly $127.2 million and comes with a 0.55-percent increase. The tax levy, which is the overall amount of property tax revenue for the budget, will rise to about $113.8 million, or 0.62 percent.

The proposed budget comes in well under the state-mandated tax levy cap. Legally, the district could have gone with a hike as high as 1.71 percent, which would have resulted in a total levy of about $115.1 million.

The story is a complicated one, however, for projected tax rates, which measure what taxpayers owe per $1,000 of their assessed property value.

Projections show that Mount Kisco taxpayers will get a 6.89-percent tax-rate hike and Bedford will get a 2.03-percent increase. However, the projections also show sizable decreases for Pound Ridge, New Castle and North Castle taxpayers. The respective cuts are 6.58 percent, 5.98 percent and 7.94 percent.

In dollar amounts, Mount Kisco's new tax rate would be $78.45 while Bedford's would be $136.91. Pound Ridge, New Castle and North Castle would have lower rates, respectively, of $78.32, $68.62 and $598.46.

One thing to keep in mind, however, is that the five towns assess properties at different percentages of market value, which restricts how much taxable value there is. For example, in North Castle, the number is just 2.37 percent, which means only a small portion of value is taxable. In Mount Kisco, the number is 18.08 percent, which means there is a higher taxable proportion.

The discrepancies in rates are the byproduct of equalization rates, equations that the state gives school districts to reconcile the difference in assessed valuation and to apportion the tax revenue among towns .

The budget has $1.2 million of additions, including two instructional assistants, special-education teachers and two teachers for English-language learners.

A total of $2.9 million in cuts are sought, including elimination of four elementary teaching sections, reducing contracted campus security and converting full-time elementary aide positions to part-time ones.

District officials laid out the budget and the financial landscape last Wednesday at a Bedford Hills talk.

Superintendent Jere Hochman touched upon years of proverbial belt-tightening already done.

“Every year we’re kind of at that point which means we must be getting close into the core to where we really can’t cut anymore deeply without really getting into the classroom.”

Programs and class-size guidelines will not be affected by the budget, Assistant Superintendent for Business Mark Betz said at the talk. However, he warned that more cuts are being considered for the future, as the school board is looking to stop using surplus funds for budgeting by 2017-18.

To meet this goal, $1.6 million to $1.9 million would need to be cut. Betz noted that cuts won't be made at once, citing impact to kids.

“We have to be judicious about doing that," he said.

The budget vote is set for May 19. Voters casting ballots in person must go to their zoned elementary schools for their polling places.

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