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Katonah-Lewisboro Voters Decide On $105.9M Budget, Contested Board Races

Left to right, at a forum: Julia Hadlock, Jeff Holbrook and Richard Stone. Photo Credit: Tom Auchterlonie
Peter Treyz Photo Credit: Tom Auchterlonie

LEWISBORO, N.Y. -- Voters in the Katonah-Lewisboro school district will decide on Tuesday whether to accept the proposed 2016-17 budget and on who to elect for three seats on the school board.

The budget calls for $105,994,936 in spending, a decrease of 2.52. Meanwhile, the tax levy, which is the total amount of tax revenue in the budget, is estimed to be cut by 3.21 percent. If approved, the budget would be the third in a row with cuts to spending and total tax revenue.

Tax rates, which measure what taxpayers will owe per $1,000 of assessed property values, will decline in all four of the district's towns. The rates will drop by 2.10 percent in Lewisboro, by 4.42 percent in Bedford (Katonah), by 10.02 percent in North Salem and by 3.75 percent in Pound Ridge.

Tax-rate changes, whether up or down, vary across the towns due to use of the equalization rate, a state-mandated formula that is used to apportion the tax-levy burden. The formula is used because the towns assess properties at differencing percentages of their market values.

The district has been able to cut spending due to large drops in debt service (by $3,263,715) and in state-mandated pension contributions (by $1,276,263), among others. The budget also includes programmatic enhancements, including the addition of world-language labs for the middle school and high school levels, new textbooks, and the addition of a therapeutic support program and behavior analyst.

Further details on the budget are available here.

Voters are also being asked to approve spending $895,000 on new buses, which would be done with cash on hand.

On the school board sides, incumbents Peter Treyz, Richard Stone and Jeffrey Holbrook are running for re-elections. The fourth candidate is challenger Julia Holbrook. Under the district's at-large system, the winners will be the top-three vote getters.

Stone and Holbrook, who have served since 2013, were joined by Hadlock at a recent forum hosted by Parent Council, an umbrella body for each school's parent groups. Treyz was unable to attend, although a moderator read a letter on his behalf.

Holbrook, a father of twins, noted that when he first ran his big issues were improving transparency, more effective collaboration with administrators and changing the tone with the public. In each of those aspects, Holbrook noted, the board has made “great strides”

The incumbent also touted the board's record in cutting spending for three years, while maintaining and implementing programs, such as full-day kindergarten.

Stone, a whose son graduated from John Jay High School in 2005, concurred with Holbrook about the board's achievements, adding they were “just getting started.”

Hadlock, who has three sons and is co-president of the Increase Miller Elementary School PTA, said she is running because she is “very passionate about education and lifelong learning."

All three praised the hiring and performance of Superintendent Andrew Selesnick, who is winding down is first school year at the helm.

The candidates each spoke about what they feel are the top issues facing each academic level. At the elementary level, Hadblock seeks to unify the schools, while at the middle school she would like to balance dealing with having two larger teams that are paired with a smaller one. For the high school, Hadlock wants to implement ways to address students' mental health.

The biggest elementary issue for Holbrook is to improve access to textbooks for homework, while at the middle school he would like to move back the start time, noting his local example of 6:45 a.m. bussing. At the high school, Holbrook would like to present the breadth of elective courses amid declining student enrollment.

Stone expressed satisfaction with elementary curriculum while suggesting an expansion of middle school extra-curricula activities. Maintaining current opportunities at the high school in the face of declining enrollment is also a priority.

Video of the whole candidate forum is available here . Election-issue questions to Treyz can be found on The Lewisboro Ledger's website.

Voting is scheduled on Tuesday from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Residents' elementary schools that their homes are zoned for will be their polling places.

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