Thursday, March 3, 2016

Message from the Bedford School Board

Message from the Bedford School Board

There are several vitally important issues on the school district ballot that need the voter’s approval. We would like the approval of all the warrant articles listed, but one of the most important issues is the school district’s budget. Bedford has always been a frugal town and our per capita spending is more than $2000 below the state average with all grades combined. There are many things that have combined to make that happen. Whenever we have had a student population decline, we have reduced the staff numbers across the board. We have always looked at each expenditure carefully and tried to maintain the excellence in our award-winning Bedford schools while keeping the taxes as low as possible.

This year, however, we are faced with several challenges. The Bedford School District has more students than ever. A few years ago we saw decreased enrollment in the elementary schools and cut some teaching positions. Those numbers have started to grow again. To maintain class sizes at effective levels, we need to hire 4 more elementary teachers as well as return some of our positions in Art, Music, and Physical Education to full time. They had been reduced to part-time when student numbers dropped. A Special Education Resource Room teacher is needed as well as 3 paraprofessionals to accommodate our Special Education population. We are also recommending an increase in hours for the SEED teacher at Lurgio Middle School who works with our accelerated learners full-time so that more students can be challenged to even greater heights. With the Opioid Crisis hitting our town and state, we strongly support an increased emphasis on prevention in our schools. Accordingly, the proposed budget includes the addition of a full-time Drug and Alcohol Counselor at Lurgio-BHS. There are also a few other vital personnel additions that would be funded with the new budget. The school board has analyzed all of these additions carefully to make sure that they are truly needed for our students.

This year for the first time there is a large difference between the proposed budget and the default budget that would go into effect if the budget does not pass. One of the main reasons for this is our new method of calculating the Default Budget. In past years, we have tried to anticipate all the capital improvements that will be needed for 10 years and organize and prioritize them over that span of time so that there weren’t huge fluctuations in the tax rates from year to year. We have always looked on this Capital Expenditure Plan (CEP) as an ongoing cost and included it in the Default Budget calculation. This year, however, we’ve removed most of the capital projects we did last year from the Default calculations such as the roof replacement at Memorial School. Since we’ve included the roof replacement at McKelvie School in this year’s budget, it looks as if there’s a big increase, but it’s really just a new method of defining the Default Budget.

There are so many important components of what makes the Bedford School District the award winning entity that it is and what makes so many people move here for the sake of their children’s education. Please think about what would have to be reduced if the budget doesn’t pass and $2.3 million has to be taken out of next year’s budget: larger class sizes, missed opportunity for drug and alcohol prevention, less enrichment opportunities, potential cuts in academic co-curriculars, athletics, and more.  So please come to the polls on March 8 and support the Bedford Schools and our children and vote for the school district’s budget.

Bill Kassler
Scott Earnshaw
Cindy Chagnon
Bill Foote
Phil Schappler

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