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Officials Weigh Two Propositions for Bedford School Bond

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Bedford school officials are poised to present district voters two propositions for this spring’s major infrastructure and modernization bond, a large main bond and another for additional air conditioning at Fox Lane High School.

After painstaking deliberations, each of the past three weeks that has pared down about $107 million of items, the Board of Education appeared close to settling on a first proposition of $58,964,798 for the district-wide infrastructure improvements, spatial renovations at the secondary schools and athletic facilities upgrades at the high school and middle school campus.

A second proposition, currently estimated at $3,651,800, would ask voters whether they would support air conditioning for the second- and third-floor A and C wings at Fox Lane High School. The smaller proposition can only be approved if the larger proposition is given the green light by the public.

District officials are looking to present the bond to voters on May 17, the same day as the Board of Education election and budget vote.

Over the past three weeks, the board has reduced the scope of the work in hopes of presenting to voters a $55 million to $60 million bond. Initially, officials said up to $70 million would prevent triggering a tax increase since two large bonds are maturing next year and in 2026, respectively.

However, the Bond Finance Committee recommended scaling back borrowing by $10 million to $15 million to give future boards flexibility to not raise taxes in case more work needs to be done over the next decade.

Until last Wednesday evening, board members had been divided on whether they should include air conditioning in the second and third floors of the high school, which can reach more than 90 degrees on warm days in September, May and June, and whether the estimates for additional operating costs were accurately computed.

“I don’t think it’s a luxury,” said board member Beth Staropoli of air conditioning on those two floors. “It impacts student learning and that worries me, and I just want to be on record with that.”

President John Boucher agreed with Staropoli that the spaces most impacted are for learning and often house key exams late in the year.

Board member Steven Matlin had challenged estimates that the operating costs of the district’s additional air conditioning would rise by only about $100,000 a year given skyrocketing utility costs. That number assumed it would need to run the air conditioning for eight hours a day when needed.

By increasing the estimated additional electric costs of $1,238 a day for each day it’s used by 50 percent and assuming it would be in use for 12 hours, Matlin estimated that expense to be about $209,000.

“That’s a lot of money and that’s a recurring year-over-year cost,” Matlin said.

He then suggested to put the high school air conditioning in a second proposition to let the public decide if it’s warranted.

“That brings the first (proposition) down to our Finance (Committee) recommendation and it lets the community weigh in on the $3.5 million for the air conditioning,” Matlin said. “We put the decision in the hands of the community.”

Air conditioning for two kindergarten classrooms at Bedford Hills Elementary School and the second floor at Mount Kisco Elementary School remain in the main proposition.

In addition to infrastructure improvements at each one of the district’s buildings, other key bond components are reconfigured space at the middle school and high school and a host of athletic facilities improvements at that campus, including adding artificial turf.

The board is expected to discuss the bond again at its next meeting on Mar. 2 and hopes to finalize the scope so members can devote their attention to reviewing the 2022-23 school year budget.

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