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Solomon’s Narrative vs. The Truth
I serve on Bedford Central School District’s Budget Advisory Committee and have been increasingly dismayed with the false narrative that the Board of Education, and by extension the district, are woefully incompetent and Mike Solomon is the hero of fiscal discipline. Like all things in a political election, soundbites are cheap. The truth is far more complicated.
The reality is the BoE has limited discretion, as 80% of costs are contractual obligations that grow above the budget cap, while state mandates limit cuts and increase costs. To manage through that, the BoE has made tough decisions regularly, as the district has 15% fewer employees over the past 6+ years, with flat student enrollment. Districts with a declining population can manage the squeeze better (i.e. Chappaqua and Katonah). Katonah, by the way, spends 13% more per student than BCSD. Somehow both Chappaqua and Katonah receive more state aid than BCSD, with fewer students.
If you believe Mr. Solomon, the blame for this year’s $9 mill budget gap belongs to anyone except him, even though he was Head of the Finance Committee. Moreover, the budget that was adopted last year was widely cheered as “Mike’s Plan” a year ago as it included a below-cap tax increase. That plan pushed our district to the brink today by draining all of our usable reserves and under-funding healthcare.
Mr. Solomon will talk about fiscal responsibility that doesn’t impact the classroom. His insightful ideas include cutting ECTs (Elementary Consulting Teachers) when he doesn’t even know what they do. ECTs are an important part of curriculum development, including enrichment, and would directly impact students. If you pay attention to the actual details, his ideas are simplistically lacking. Our interim superintendent is widely respected, has decades of experience, and yet his fresh perspective didn’t find any mass incompetence, rather he thought we cut too much already.
Voter ire should be directed at structural issues created by Cuomo and a tax cap that’s squeezing school districts statewide. Mr. Solomon’s budget last year has been a disaster. We don’t need more of the same.