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Revised Bedford School Budget Stays Under Tax Cap, Cuts 52 Jobs

Bedford Central's school board
Bedford Central's school board Photo Credit: Tom Auchterlonie

BEDFORD, N.Y. -- Voters in the Bedford Central School District will decide on Tuesday whether to approve a revised 2016-17 budget. The vote will take place more than a month after the first budget iteration was rejected.

Total spending for the second version comes in at $126,804,885, an appropriations decrease of 0.31 percent from the current year's budget. Total spending also includes $2.85 million in additional cuts from the failed budget proposal.

The revised budget falls within the tax levy cap, which is a state-mandated limit on how much aggregate property tax revenue can be raised from year to year. The new budget calls for raising the levy by 1.31 percent. The previous proposal, which called for a levy hike of 3.82 percent, included an attempt to override the tax cap.

The first budget, which received roughly 58 percent of the votes in favor, failed because it did not garner a 60-percent supermajority needed to approve a tax-cap override. The revised budget will only require a simple majority over more than 50 percent because it does not involve breaching the cap.

The cuts made in order to balance the revised budget will result in cuts of roughly 52 jobs. A portion of the cuts were baked into the failed budget, while more have been proposed for the second budget.

Job cuts will include the elimination of all but one of the district's elementary school librarians - a single staffer will act as a "master librarian" and travel across the five schools throughout the week - along with cuts in teachers at Fox Lane High School and Fox Lane Middle School. Other staffing reductions include the removal of three custodians, the cut of an elementary level band teacher and phase out of the district's only TV-production staffer.

The school board sent the revised budget to the voters by approving it with a unanimous vote at its June 1. The new vote was in contrast to the board's 4-3 approval for the first budget, which was marked with heated debate. While members had some disagreements at the recent meeting, the severity of them were relatively tame compared to what transpired at previous sessions.

To an extent, the cuts will come without certainty as to how Bedford Central will function next year. For example, when discussion among officials turned to ways to mitigate the loss of librarians, it was noted that nothing has been figured out yet. Remarking on the gap, Interim Superintendent John Chamber, noted that officials are talking about “ways to mitigate a bad situation.”

On another occasion, when Chambers discussed concerns that he received from the CSEA union about clerical-job cuts, he bluntly noted the lack of certainty over how their workload will be picked up

“I wish we had better answers.”

The budget revote also falls on Fox Lane High School's graduation date. The district cannot avoid the conflict at this point, Chambers noted previously, as the revote date is mandated by the state.

If the second vote fails, the district will be required under state law to adopt a contingency budget, which will involve nearly $1.5 million in additional cost cutting. By law, a contingency budget must also freeze the tax levy to its current level.

Voting will take place from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and will be held at residents' locally zoned elementary schools.

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