Voters in the Bedford Central School District will be asked early next year to vote on a major bond referendum to renovate several schools. The question for district officials, however, is what items should be included in a package that could come with a steep price tag.
Seeking to get input from residents, the district's Community Investment Program (CIP) scheduled two information sessions Tuesday at West Patent Elementary School. The school itself happens to be the largest item being eyed for the bond vote, with a possible cost of more than $35 million. It could include gut renovations for its main wings and library, an addition to the cafetorium and possibly establishing an early childhood center.
The scope of every improvement being considered for possible inclusion in the vote leads to a large price tag, with current estimates coming in at roughly $75.6 million. However, the numbers are still preliminary, according to Assistant Superintendent for Business Mark Betz.
The district has an ambitious timeline for the next three months. The goals, going forward, are to present results of various surveys being conducted, both by phone, online and in the community session. A specific capital plan would be recommended to the school board on Dec. 19, while the board would vote on whether to put it up for a referendum at its Jan. 23 meeting. Building tours are eyed for February and March, with a vote eyed for March 12.
"Those numbers haven't been scrubbed," by an independent cost estimator or construction manager yet, Betz told the crowd. Since the district has not decided on the list of items to include for a vote, the price tag could come down.
The proposal, potentially, could include renovated science labs and a cafeteria addition for Fox Lane Middle School, roof and window replacements, and heating and ventilation upgrades for several buildings.
All schools in the district would see work of some sort, including Fox Lane High School, Mount Kisco Elementary School and Pound Ridge Elementary School, which received major additions paid for by a bond vote approved in 2002 to address rising enrollment. According to Betz, this means things that were not addressed in the prior vote. Examples include work on the high school's library, theater and gym floor.
The high school has several other major components being considered for inclusion, such as replacing the turf field and fixing the track (estimated to cost about $3 million), along with the water piping system. Betz noted that the piping is original to the campus, which was constructed more than five decades ago. The possible price tag for that item, however, is unknown.
From feedback of some folks in the audience at the morning meeting, which included parents and municipal officials in the district, there was a desire to have what is essential versus what is discretionary.
Anne Kronenberg, a Bedford resident, was skeptical about having an early childhood center included at West Patent, feel that it is not essential.
"That is free pre-school," she said at her table. She also did not feel that expanding West Patent's foot print made sense, and with the district not increasing in enrollment as a factor.
"This to me is a nice to have, not a need to have," she said.
West Patent Principal Vera Berezowsky, while not taking a specific position on having an early childhood space, noted that it can be more costly to provide remedial support to children who did not receive an adequate early education prior to kindergarten.
Becky Simkhai, a Bedford Corners resident and West Patent parent, agreed with Berezowsky, and said in an interview that pre-school is "absolutely an important part of getting our kids ready for kindergarten."
Linda Dishner, a Bedford resident, noted that if you are going to have something new, then it should prepare kids for a changing curriculum.
Mount Kisco Village Manager James Palmer, who is a village resident and serves on a district committee for the plan's process, said his table felt that there should be consultation first on getting private funding for the turf and track work, and that while sustainability should be considered, it should not necessarily impede going with infrastructure that is more affordable.
For some attendees, there was a desire to get more information for some parts being considered. One table wanted clarification about the proposed early childhood cente, expanding West Patent's cafetorium and the possible installation of some air conditioning at the high school.
Mount Kisco Village Trustee Jean Farber felt that there needs to be “a lot more details” shared with the community and that what is being discussed now is about broad subjects.
As the district moves further along its timeline, public interest in the bond vote has increased, Superintendent Jere Hochman confirmed. In contrast, earlier on in the process, which included initial scenarios discussed in 2011 and early 2012 meeting, feedback was quieter, Hochman explained.