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Q: We keep talking about the budget gap assuming a tax levy increase of 2.94%,
but I thought the law capped taxes at 2?

A: Actually, the so- called Tax-Cap Law does NOT restrict increases at all, it only determines the maximum allowable  tax levy a district can pass with a simple majority. For BCSD, that increase is 2.94%.A tax levy increase of more than 2.94% would require 60% approval by voters. Read more about the law here.


BC News

April 4, 2012

Voters to consider $88.2 million budget on May 15

2012-13 budget eliminates more than 56 FTEs,
would challenge so-called “tax cap” with 3.99 percent tax levy increase

At its April 3 budget meeting, the Bethlehem Board of Education adopted a proposed $88,203,000 spending plan for the 2012-13 school year.

The budget carries a tax levy increase of 3.99 percent, which exceeds the district’s “maximum allowable tax levy” of 2.94 percent.

Overall spending in the proposed budget increases 1.5 percent over the current year's budget.

“We’ve had community forums and budget workshops; we’ve listened to the feedback of the people who have been involved,” said Bethlehem Superintendent Dr. Thomas Douglas. “One thing we heard consistently is that a Bethlehem education is an excellent one the community would like to maintain. With that in mind we focused our budgeting process on the needs of our students and the expectations of our community, and developed a spending plan that happens to exceed the so-called tax cap.”

In addition to a 3.99 percent tax levy increase, the district will use $1.7 million in reserve funds to balance the budget. More than 56 full-time-equivalent positions would be eliminated in the spending plan.

View the April 3 presentation here [PDF]. Watch the video here.

Click here to see a list of tentative budget cuts [PDF]

The district faces a budget gap of more than $7.7 million and would have had to cut $3.985 million if it remained within the state’s tax levy limit.

"Part of the reason we're facing a gap so large is that for the past three years, we've paid back nearly $12 million in state aid through the Gap Elimination Adjustment to assist the state in balancing its books," said Douglas.

With a 3.99 percent increase in tax levy, the district will have to cut approximately $3.3 million from the budget, but can maintain key programmatic elements.

Over the past decade, Bethlehem Central School District residents have supported an average yearly tax levy increase of 4.93 percent.

“I commend the community and the Board of Education for their hard work throughout this difficult process,” said Douglas. “We’ve engaged in an open and transparent budget process, hosted numerous community forums and workshops, and I thank everyone for being involved in the process.”

The Bethlehem Central School District has reduced nearly 60 full-time positions over the past two years, losing through layoffs or attrition 26.8 FTE positions in the 2010-11 school budget and 31.9 in the 2011-12 budget.

The closure of Clarksville Elementary last year has saved the district $840,670. The $1.89 million that was held in a tax reduction reserve fund was used, with other monies from the district’s fund balance, to decrease the tax burden in the 2011-12 budget.

“We’ve used our reserves and we’ve tightened our belts,” said Board President Diane Giacone Stever, “and at the end of the day we as a board feel it’s our responsibility to our students, parents and community to put forward a budget that preserves the excellent educational experience Bethlehem Central Schools are known for.”

The public will vote on the budget on May 15. Under the state’s new “Tax Cap” law, if a budget is voted down twice, the board must adopt a contingency budget that maintains the tax levy from the previous year – a 0 percent increase. This would result in approximately $6 million in reductions and eliminations in the budget. 


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