May 20, 2014 at BCHS, 7 a.m. - 9 p.m.
If the proposed 2014-15 district budget is approved by voters, the plan will include a property tax levy increase of 2.99 percent. It is expected that the resulting tax rates will decrease by 3.57 percent. Rates are expected to be the same in both the Town of Bethlehem and the Town of New Scotland. To help residents ESTIMATE the budget's impact on their tax bill, use the calculator below. Final tax rates will not be available until August. Click here for calculator>>
MAY BUDGET MEETINGS
Please join us and offer your input on BCSD budget issues. All meetings will be held in the BCHS Library & Media Center.
• May 6, 6:30 p.m.:Meet the Candidates Night (sponsored by the League of Women Voters)
• May 7, 7 p.m.:Budget Hearing
• May 20, 7 a.m.-9 p.m.:Budget Vote, BCHS
• May 21, 7 p.m.:Board of Education meeting
Community discusses bridging a $4.4 million gap
More than 200 residents meet in-person, online to discuss potential savings areas
The following are notes from the group in Computer Lab #1 at the Community Budget forum. Read more about the forum here.
Facilitator's notes or clarifications will be noted in red.
Some overarching themes
Reductions should be looked at in terms
of the number of students that would be affected—preferred cuts
would be those that affect the least number of students.
Needs of all students should be considered – not just opportunities for those who excel but also supports for students with additional needs.
Cuts that reduce opportunities rather than eliminate them altogether are preferable.
[For example, cutting one foreign language still leaves kids with three languages to choose from. Or eliminating modified sports rather than the whole sports program. Suburbs like Bethlehem have town sports programs and club sports even if modified sports are dropped.]
Reductions driven by declines in enrollment (e.g., proposed 2 elementary classroom teachers) seem like obvious cuts.
There has to be more communication from the district to get more people involved and aware of the problems. It’s not the 100 people here tonight that we need to worry about, but everyone else in the community. The district needs to educate people about what is happening.
Instructional & Co-curricular
"As a parent and community member, it’s
important to me that our students are enriched and have
opportunities to prepare them to be future leaders. That requires
more than just core academics."
•Bethlehem has a tradition of getting students accepted to the best colleges because they receive well-rounded experiences and opportunities to excel in lots of areas (electives, extracurriculars, sports). If we lose those, our students will lose a competitive edge.
•Some of the staff cuts proposed will mean that students will entirely lose opportunities that will prepare them for the next level (college or work) – like cutting business electives. That can really change their future.
•As a parent of an elementary student, I agree with the need for breadth of opportunities at the secondary level, but I think that for elementary students, parents have more ability to provide that through other venues (town programs, family efforts).
•I moved here for the High School program – the AP courses and electives that show a level of rigor that matters to colleges.
•Bethlehem has a diverse student population – not just students who excel and need enrichment but also students who need extra support, and their needs must be met too.
•Without AIS and other supports (proposed for cuts), we are asking classroom teachers (esp. elementary) to incorporate too much – more than can be expected of one person. We can’t just keep saying classroom teachers can do more.
•Asking elementary teachers to incorporate specials into the regular classroom day isn’t feasible. It means teachers don’t get any break during the day.
•I don’t see how a reading teacher can be cut. The number of students who need reading support can fluctuate throughout the year. This is too foundational to lose.
•For students with special needs, how will teachers continue to meet their needs (IEPs) if so many support positions are cut? These cuts would be very short-sighted.
•21st century skills aren’t about technology. They’re about left-brain skills – art, music etc. – that help students succeed.
•If you make cuts from academics you have to make cuts from sports/clubs – and vice versa.
•Concerned about cuts particularly clubs/sports etc. at the middle school level – students have nothing else to do.
•Any cuts should be looked at in terms of what is mandated and what is not. (Comments about the district not meeting PE mandate – how is that acceptable?)
•Proposed walking distances – 1.5 miles poses
a safety concern for elementary students.
•In reality kids won’t be walking – parents will drive them if they don’t want them to have to walk so far.
Other: Negotiations/State Funding
•Negotiations with the teachers union need to
be resolved now so that any potential savings can be factored into
planning. We can’t wait until the last minute for any givebacks
(like last year).
•District should help community understand unfunded mandates and what they cost – how they increase spending (it’s not just teacher salaries).
•As state taxpayers, we need to talk to state leaders and tell them we don’t want these kinds of cuts.
•In a budget crisis, we focus inward and cut when instead we should look outside and hold the governor and legislators accountable to their promises of being for students and for education.
•Can’t the district do more to get people involved and active?
Questions/More info needed
•It would be helpful to benchmark our budget
crisis and proposed cuts against what other districts are facing. We
need to make sure we remain competitive and desirable as a place to
•Is there any way to coordinate with Suburban Council districts regarding athletics reductions so we don’t shortchange our kids in terms of remaining competitive?
•Community needs more info about unfunded mandates – including costs associated with them. I’ve never seen costs attached to these mandates. That would really help people understand what districts face and why costs keep going up.
•How would the specials reduction actually work? Would classroom teachers really be expected to teach art and music? And what about PE – we can’t give kids even less of that than we already are. Or would kids just only get these offerings two or three times a week?
•The district talks about a structural deficit, and most of the budget is salaries and benefits. Besides give-backs of salary freezes, is the district attempting to go back to the table regarding automatic step increases? If that isn’t addressed, the structural problem will not go away.
•Why is the amount for the Clarksville rental so low ($23,000)? How can renting a building cost less than $2,000 a month? Can we get more info on what this arrangement would really save the district (e.g., what kinds of utility/upkeep costs are we saving by having the tenant cover them?)
•What about the district’s Foundation fund? Can’t that be tapped to help the district?
•Does the district have any resources to help people who want to contact state leaders for more help for schools?
The tax levy
•We were able to get 60% approval last year, but if you don’t get
more people involved, we can’t count on that.
•I’d support a tax increase above the limit if it meant we didn’t have to make all of these cuts (would not want it going toward raises). BUT only a fraction of the community votes right now. If we go that high, we may see a lot of people who haven’t voted in the past come out and vote it down.
•The economy is really tough right now, and people are having a hard time. While some of us can maybe afford a higher tax increase, others won’t be able to (esp. seniors on a fixed income) while the economy is still in a downturn.
•We have to think about what the whole community can support. If we go too high, they will vote the budget down.
•No one understands that the “2% cap” isn’t really 2%. In that context, they might be okay with a 2.9% increase, but higher than that would be hard to get support for.
Read Superintendent Douglas' note on becoming involved in the budget process here.