Things I’ve learned while on Bedford School Board

To the Editor:

I’m Bill Foote and I’m running for a second term on the Bedford School Board.

This is my sixth time running and my first time running as an incumbent. I’ve learned a few things. Some things pretty quickly, some over time.

One thing that I learned quickly: When I was elected, I thought I was going to be one of the kings. Not true. You’re one member of a team whose role is to direct the administration to educate our kids well. I’ve been lucky to have worked with four others who don’t play power politics or don’t bring an agenda. I can safely say that the five of us have acted in a way that we, individually, think is best for all the stakeholders.

Those stakeholders aren’t just the kids. They are all the taxpayers. The parents of our students. The staff and administration.

That being said, I think that the district puts out a darn good product.

To produce that product costs money. A lot of it. I had been peripherally familiar with the budget process, enough so that I could follow along with each budget line as it was developed as an outsider, but when you serve on the board and have to go through lines, you get to really appreciate the daunting nature of the task. As an outsider, I didn’t understand how much of our budget, and the resulting tax rate on the taxpayer, was dictated to us by state and federal mandates.

In my previous runs, I complained about things like a $1 million and a $2 million surplus that exhibited “bad fiscal management.” Again, not true. I can say, unequivocally, that our budget is the “best budget big government whipsawing local government” can provide.

I don’t want to make this sound like I’m blaming “outside forces” for our $0.64 per $1,000 of assessed value potential increase this year. That number comes recommended from the Bedford School Board after we’ve gone through the entire process. Can we do better? Absolutely, but the taxpayer needs to give us solid direction as to what fiscal target they need us to hit. As early as possible. That direction is the role of the taxpayer. The Board is very approachable. Tell the board!

This year, I received more vocal pushback on the finished budget than I had in the previous two budgets. The real estate owner whose triple net terms are lain right on his renters. When you get renters that came to Bedford because of its relatively fair taxes – and now complaining – how long before we lose those businesses to towns with even “fairer” taxes? Or the long-term resident on a fixed income that calls and tells me “don’t do this to me.”

I get it. The board gets it. We recommended the $0.64/ per $1,000 as a team, but you always have the option of voting for the default budget for a $0.41 per $1,000 total tax impact.

Your vote on the budget tells us what to do.

That being said, I hope to be returned to be part of that process.

My previous runs for a seat have been for the same reason: One can write letters to the paper and attend a ton of meetings, but the only way to get a voice at the table is to earn a seat at the table. I’ve done it for three years, I’ve enjoyed the work, and I look forward to earning your vote to do so for the next three years.

If I’m re-elected or not, I want to thank the Bedford voter for the trust placed in me three years ago. I look forward to earning that trust for another three.