Illuminating facts, dispelling falsehoods

To the Editor:

Bedford’s schools are considered among the best in the state, and we want to keep them that way.

In the budget for next year, the School Board wants to maintain class sizes as we grow, improve enrichment at the middle school level, maintain our strong offerings in math, science and world language at the high school, and provide more education and early intervention to address the substance abuse crisis in our community. The proposed budget would do that.

Therefore, it is crucial for voters to understand the $2.3 million gap between the school’s 2017-18 proposed and default budget before deciding how to vote on March 8. To that end, this letter endeavors to illuminate facts and dispel misperceptions and falsehoods.

It is true that the difference this year between the proposed budget and the default budget is due to the redesignation of recurring and nonrecurring capital expenditures. It is not true that the capital expenditures that are currently not included in the default budget will not have to be completed.

They will have to be done. To not complete the new roof at McKelvie, for instance, would be indefensible. It is a safety issue.

It is not true to say that Bedford’s enrollments are projected to decline. In fact, Bedford’s overall enrollments are the highest they have ever been and are projected to increase slightly in the next three years. The four classroom teachers at the elementary level that are in the proposed budget are enrollment-driven positions. They are necessary to keep within the School Board’s class size guidelines, and they would not be funded in the default budget.

It is true that the School District has had an unreserved fund balance of between $2 and $3 million in the last five years. That entire amount is returned, by law, on June 30 of each year, and credited to property owners against their next tax bill. It is a significant reason why the school portion of the tax bill was of minimal impact last year to this year at $13.79.

The School Board has been judicious in its handling of the school budget in past years and continues to be so this year.

It is not true to say that there will be no current staffing or program changes if the proposed budget is voted down. If the proposed budget does not pass, if voters vote "No" on Article V, the School Board, along with the community and superintendent, will need to work together to determine which items will be removed.

Amy Woods
Bedford Education Association