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Chappaqua School Board Upset with BOCES $1.5 Million Request

CHAPPAQUA, N.Y. – Two weeks after learning that Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES needs $1.57 million in funds from the Chappaqua Central School District for repairs on its campus, the request is still not sitting well with school board members.

“It’s still a hard pill to swallow,” said board member Karen Visser, who took issue with Chappaqua having to foot such a large portion of the bill, despite using the facilities less than other communities. “$1.5 million they’re asking from us to pay for something that we hardly use.”

Though Chappaqua students do not use the BOCES facilities as much as those from other districts, BOCES Assistant Superintendent Tom Higgins told the board on Nov. 29 that contributions are based on a combination of true property value and district enrollment figures. Of the 18 districts, Chappaqua ranks near the top of both.

The board was also upset over the lack of notice given to them by BOCES, believing the bill was sprung on them at the last minute. “The buildings didn’t just become this bad over the last two years,” said school board president Alyson Gardner-Kiesel. “They’ve been trending that way.”

Board member Randy Katchis believes BOCES failed to do enough long-term planning to justify the funds they are requesting. He said BOCES should have considered other alternatives, such as consolidating some of the buildings and programs, our creating an Olympic-sized pool that could be used by the entire community.

Despite a unanimous opposition to the request, the board will still be forced to pay for the repairs. Higgins told the board that if the plan is not passed by the 18 districts, BOCES would have to declare an emergency and use district funds without notice.

“We’re obligated to pay the bill, but nonetheless I certainly, at this point, can’t succumb to something that hasn’t been justified. They haven’t done the hard work,” said Katchis. “I’d like to see BOCES do the heavy lifting. I’d like to seem them really explore what they do, how they do it and how to be more efficient at it before they come ask for $20 million for their defective districts.”

While fighting the bill may prove to be a fruitless effort for this particular bill, board member Victoria Tipp believes the district should not simply sit back and accept it, either. Tipp suggested that BOCES should speak with New York State legislators over the way it allocates its costs.

“That may not get us very far but I think the time of ‘business as usual’ is really over. I’m sure there was a time when we would have thrown up our hands and said ‘oh, well they’re gonna bill us anyway,’” said Tipp. “Times are different now, and business as usual is over.”

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