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Survey: Community Backs Bedford Schools Capital Plan

Fox Lane Middle School's Little Theater housed a much larger audience than usual at the Bedford Central School District's Board of Education meeting Wednesday. Rob Wright revealed results of the district's community survey on its capital plan.
Fox Lane Middle School's Little Theater housed a much larger audience than usual at the Bedford Central School District's Board of Education meeting Wednesday. Rob Wright revealed results of the district's community survey on its capital plan. Photo Credit: Liz Button

BEDFORD, N.Y. – The community has spoken: Phone and Internet surveys conducted recently by the Bedford Central School District's Community Investment Program show significant support for the district’s proposed capital plan.

The capital planning process is "getting very intense," Superintendent Jere Hochman said at the Board of Education's Wednesday meeting.

Since September 2011, the Board of Education has held 16 meetings that featured presentations on the proposed $75.67 million capital plan, which will be put to a public bond vote in March.

"This is not new," Hochman said. "This plan is not something that has just begun, nor is it something that has been done behind closed doors."

According to school officials, the $75 million price tag reflects the plan's highest possible cost if all projects currently proposed get the green light. The plan includes improvement projects in all district buildings, refurbishing the Fox Lane stadium, redoing Fox Lane Middle School's science labs and cafeteria, and performing a complete "green" overhaul of West Patent Elementary School.

Rod Wright of research and communications firm UNICOM ARC presented the Board of Education with the results of the recent Internet and phone surveys. These surveys were designed to determine in which aspects of the capital plan district residents are willing to invest their tax dollars.

Wright said that in the initial survey question asking whether respondents approved the bond issue as proposed, 51.6 percent were in favor compared to 40.1 percent against it.

This value has moved up about 5 percentage points from where it was when compared to a very similar question in a survey done last year, Wright said.

Another common sentiment Wright determined was that people believe they could not afford to pay more taxes even though they love the school district. Survey results also reflected an idea suggested in the survey that it is reasonable to take care of facility needs every decade.

“I don’t see anything on the survey that says we need to slow down and we need to take another look at this,” Wright said, recommending that the board have confidence in the support of the community going forward.

School officials have stressed that a number of projects are likely to be dropped as the capital planning process continues. The district is considering only what it calls "priority one projects," those that put student safety first.

Hochman said he will give his recommendation at the Board of Education's Jan. 9 meeting. The recommendation will be based on the surveys, input culled from residents and input from the district's Capital Planning Committee, which is made up of residents and Board of Education members.

A public forum discussing the recommendation will be held the same night.

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