EducationThe Examiner

Bedford Schools Add Back Elementary Coordinators in $155.8M Budget

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The Bedford Board of Education approved a $155.8 million budget for 2024-25 last week after fully restoring the district’s five elementary school coordinators in a lengthy and difficult debate.

After struggling to reach consensus for nearly three-and-a-half hours last Wednesday, the board decided to add back the five full-time positions for $585,000. Each of the five elementary schools will continue to have its own coordinator next year.

District officials then removed the one district-wide elementary coordinator that had been proposed by Superintendent of Schools Dr. Robert Glass for $156,000 in March. The change increases spending by $429,000.

In his originally proposed 2024-25 budget, Glass had proposed a net reduction of about $1,265,000 after the cuts and add-ons were calculated. No other changes in staffing were made from his initial proposal on Mar. 20.

Although the board unanimously agreed to restore the elementary coordinators following multiple meetings where parents, mainly from Pound Ridge Elementary School, aggressively lobbied for them to be included in next year’s budget, some trustees were uneasy to use additional fund balance as officials look to decrease the district’s reliance on the reserves. The plan has been to refrain from using any reserves to balance the budget by the end of the 2025-26 school year.

Vice President Steven Matlin said although he supported restoration of the coordinators, he wanted to prevent a repeat of the situation from about a decade ago when the district was using reserves to fund salaried positions and ran into fiscal trouble in 2015. With about $200,000 already slated to be used from undesignated reserves, restoration of the coordinators would force the district to use more than $600,000 from fund balance.

“I don’t like this, I’ll be honest with you, and we’re going to have to look at this really hard next year and that may mean this decision about the (elementary coordinators) comes back around next year,” Matlin said.

The district is expected to have about $1.6 million in Foundation Aid restored by the state in its Fiscal Year 2024-25 budget.

Board member Kristine Stoker couldn’t garner support from her colleagues to find dollar-for-dollar offsets for putting the coordinators back in the spending plan. She argued that given the district’s enrollment declines each year since 2016, a trend that is expected to continue for the immediate future, the administration is bloated.

She wanted to cut the new athletic coordinator position and find other cost savings.

“I agree with the addbacks of the five ECs, but there should be additional cuts coming from the administration equal to it,” Stoker said.

Other potential restorations that were discussed at the Apr. 24 meeting included an interim assistant principal at Fox Lane High School, a middle school dean and a Universal Design for Learning (UDL) coordinator. There were various levels of support on the board for each, but none of those positions received enough backing from trustees.

Glass said he would have prioritized the high school assistant principal.

“I have the most headaches with the (assistant principal) not being filled, just because I do not think, looking at the list and where we fall, we’re really light,” Glass said. “But I’m also confident we can move forward. We did it for years, right, and then I worry about other things with the loss of the UDL, but I think we can do it. We can get the work done, not at the same speed level and quality…so I would prioritize it that way.”

Parents who had appealed to district officials to restore the coordinators said with two new elementary schools principals next year and a third being shifted to a different building, the positions were essential.

They thanked the board for the eleventh-hour reconsideration. Lauren Sharon of the Pound Ridge Elementary School PTA said the parents realized it was a difficult decision.

“There are no easy decisions here,” she said. “We recognize that. Thank you so much for your time, your deliberation (on) this and also thank you for recognizing at the elementary level there just aren’t as many layers of support, and I think that should be a crucial piece to this.”

The $155,825,000 budget contains the maximum tax cap increase of $4,053,380 or a 2.95 percent hike. Projected tax rate increases are 1.72 percent in Bedford; 2.02 percent for Mount Kisco; 4.16 percent in Pound Ridge; 4.95 percent in New Castle; and 9.03 percent in North Castle.

The budget vote is scheduled for Tuesday, May 21.


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