Proud of BKW’s successes, Elble and Lovell look ahead to 3 more years on  school board

HILLTOWNS — Nathan Elble and Kimberly Lovell are unchallenged in their re-election bids for the Berne-Knox-Westerlo Board of Education, despite the ease with which other candidates could have secured a spot on the ballot as a result of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s executive order lowering nomination thresholds. 

Instead of submitting petitions signed by voters, candidates had only to submit letters of interest to get on the ballot. The vote will be conducted by mail, with ballots due by June 9. Both measures are to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Coming off of terms that saw voter approval of a massive capital project that has reformed the school’s classrooms, the two candidates are now taking on another three years, facing unique and unpredictable challenges as the nation reels from the pandemic. 

Superintendent Timothy Mundell’s 2020-21 budget, accepted unanimously by the board, cut more than $440,000 from last year’s budget, leaving total expenses at just under $23.5 million. BKW gets about half of its revenues from state aid.

While other New York school budgets proposed layoffs and reduced programs to provide a buffer if the governor makes mid-year cuts in state aid, BKW is offering a 1-percent tax decrease and preservation of the district’s programming with four lay-offs and cuts to equipment and poorly-attended clubs.

Each candidate recognized the drastic changes ahead, and both praised Mundell, who they say, through his leadership and fiscal responsibility, has given the district the resources it needs to be a community capstone regardless of circumstance. 

Interviews with each of the candidates may be heard at as they respond to these issues:

— The next three years: Because the coronavirus has so deeply and unexpectedly altered the world, the priorities of schools nationwide have shifted as they adapt to an economic downturn and remote learning. What do you think the most important issues for the school board will be over the next three years?

— Tight budgets: Superintendent Mundell has constructed a 2020-21 budget that lowers expenses while cutting taxes and preserving programs, with the bulk of the savings coming from layoffs and attrition. You voted in favor of the budget, but can you expound on your philosophy about district budgeting in times of difficulty? What are your priorities and where would you prefer to see cuts, when necessary? 

— Chain of command: The superintendent is the lead educational expert of the district, but he ultimately answers to the school board, and the school board in turn answers to taxpayers. Do you make yourself available to the public beyond regular meetings, and if so, how? How do you juggle the sometimes opposing interests of a superintendent and taxpayers? ​

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