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BOCES $19m Fixes: Bedford BOE Passes, Chappaqua's Deliberates

Local school board members, facing large bills, have been critical of the way the situation has been handled by BOCES.

On Wednesday, Bedford Central's school board approved its district share of a roughly $19 million capital improvement project that says it needs for a number of big facilities repairs.

Bedford board members, while critical of being asked for roughly a $2 million share and in light of the district's own fiscal needs - went ahead because the alternative would be to get billed for emergency repairs, something that was seen as being more costly.

Meanwhile, Chappaqua school board members are waiting until January to vote, when BOCES is asking for all of its 18 members districts to take votes by. The cooperative board, which provides or steers shared services in northern Westchester and Putnam for special education, vocational and online learning, needs approval from the school boards in order to get the funds. This is because BOCES is not a taxing entity and because the school districts collectively own the properties.

The capital improvements requested by BOCES include $2,950,000 for fixing a therapeutic pool, $8,700,000 for HVAC work across seven buildings and $5,190,000 for roof repairs.

The request from BOCES, , has frustrated members of both local school boards, either becuase they feel the situation wasn't adequately planned or communicated, or because the capital costs are not exempt under the new tax levy cap.

“It’s still a hard pill to swallow," Chappaqua school board member Karen Visser said at Tuesday's board meeting. Chappaqua is being asked to contribute roughly $1.5 million. The forumla for determining each district's share is roughly tied to a mix of property values and daily attendence of their students.

“It’s a frustrating time to be asked for this, they acknowledge that," said Chappaqua board president Alyson Kiesel.

Another point of contention is whether districts are being asked to shoulder a greater finanical burden than to the extent that they use the programs.

Chappaqua board member Randy Katchis suggested that the formula needs to be changed so that districts can pay a base amount and then pay to play. Chappaqua's use of BOCES is on the small end, with only about 10 students enrolled.

With regards to the fiscal and administrative prudence of BOCES, Bedford Superintendent Jere Hochman came back to his board with some answers that he received. Findings include plans to freeze pay for administrators, a possible .77 average rate increase for services for 2012-13, and a reduction in equipment expenditures. With regards to whether or not BOCES keeps its buildings up to date, Hochman said that they did a roof foaming project in 1995-96 and did four HVAC projects in recent years.

“They do stay on top of it the best they can," he said.

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