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Board adopts $97.1 million proposed budget for 2017-18 – Budget Vote is May 16

Filed in Archive by on May 12, 2017

Tax levy increase below one percent for third year in a row

On May 16, BC voters will consider a $97.1 million budget for the 2017-18 school year that would increase spending by 0.6 percent and carry a tax levy increase of 0.43 percent. The proposed budget for the coming school year was adopted unanimously by the Board of Education at its April 12 meeting.

The proposed 0.43 percent tax levy increase, totaling $275,000, is below the district’s calculated tax cap. It is the third year in a row the proposed tax levy increase is below one percent and the fifth year in a row that it is below the tax cap amount. The tax levy increase in 2016-17 was 0.81 percent and in 2015-16, the levy increase was 0.45 percent.

On the ballot in May, in addition to the budget, voters will also elect three members of the Board of Education, and decide on a bus proposition to replace aging vehicles in the district’s fleet. The slate of Board of Education candidates will be announced after the April 17 deadline for returning candidate petitions.

The proposed 2017-18 budget includes an increase in state aid of $294,000 which was approved as part of the enacted state budget April 9. The increase in state aid, combined with a reduction in pension costs and savings due to retirements, will allow the district to continue to address some of the prolonged effects of the recession on the Bethlehem schools. The additional savings and revenue will also ensure the district’s mission of providing educational excellence to all Bethlehem students while keeping the budget-to-budget increase to under one percent.

The proposed 2017-18 budget totals $97,123,000, a $583,000 increase over the current budget.

Vote Tuesday, May 16, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. in Gym A at the high school

If approved by voters, the budget would: add a net 2.85 FTE staff positions; expand classroom learning opportunities, especially in STEAM areas (science, technology, engineering, arts and math); add two elementary bus routes to reduce ride times for some K-5 students; add staff support and invest in software to help struggling learners; make staffing adjustments where enrollment has declined at certain grade levels; add coaching positions to support instruction and supervision of student-athletes; give students with disabilities new opportunities in athletics; and provide additional support for the social and emotional health needs of students K-12.

For the third year in a row, the proposed 2017-18 spending plan uses no fund balance, consistent with the district’s long-term fiscal planning.

“We were fortunate that in crafting this budget there were several factors that have allowed us to meet the most pressing needs of our students and do so with a spending increase and tax levy increase both below one percent,” said Superintendent Jody Monroe. “A boost in state aid, combined with reduced pension contributions and the savings that come with a fairly large number of retirements have helped tremendously.

“The budget we have proposed, and that the board has adopted, balances the educational needs of our students in light of these fiscal circumstances,” said Monroe.

The final 2017-18 state budget, approved April 9, included an additional $135,000 in state aid above what had been allocated for Bethlehem in the executive budget introduced by the Governor in January, Superintendent Monroe said.

The additional aid allowed the Board of Education to add two elementary bus routes at a cost of $78,000 that will shorten ride times for K-5 students who live the furthest away from their schools.

“Elementary students who live in Clarksville have bus rides that are around 60 minutes,” said Superintendent Monroe. “Our transportation department has worked to come up with a plan that could offer our youngest students in the furthest reaches of the district maximum ride times of 45 minutes, potentially saving these children in kindergarten through grade five a half hour a day, every day.

“This budget would help accomplish that goal,” Monroe said.

Impact on your school taxes


As proposed, the 2017-18 tax levy for the district would increase by a total of $275,000 or 0.43 percent. This year, for the first time in several years, the equalization rates in the Town of Bethlehem (100 percent) and the Town of New Scotland (98 percent) are different, resulting in different tax rates. Using information received from both towns, the school tax rate in the Town of Bethlehem is expected to decrease by an estimated 1.12 percent and the school tax rate in the Town of New Scotland is expected to increase by an estimated 0.90 percent.

Want to see how the estimated tax rates could influence your taxes?

Budget Highlights

Districtwide


  • Increases 1.0 FTE librarian to fully support all school buildings

  • Adds English as a New Language teacher to meet mandated requirements and increased demand (0.4 FTE)

  • Increases nursing staff (1.0 FTE)

  • Funds robotics competitions

  • Upgrades district’s emergency notification system

  • Increases Assistant Transportation director position from part-time to full-time (0.4 FTE)

  • Restores Special Education Pre-K Chairperson position (0.4 FTE)

  • Reduces 2.0 FTE Special Education teachers based on enrollment

Elementary Schools


  • Adds two elementary bus routes to reduce ride times for K-5 students in Clarksville area

  • Adds 1.0 FTE School Counselor/Social Worker

  • Replaces software used for Response to Intervention (RTI) for differentiated instruction to help early learners

  • Reduces 1.0 FTE teacher based on enrollment

  • Adds noon aide coverage at Slingerlands

  • Provides additional art supplies

  • Adds 1.0 FTE Certified Behavior Specialist

Middle School


  • Eliminates two Grade 7 sections (1.7 FTE) to meet projected enrollment needs

  • Adds Introduction to Engineering Design course (0.2 FTE)

  • Adds training for Project Lead the Way science and engineering instructors

  • Adds 3D printer for use by technology classes

  • Replaces software used for Academic Intervention Services (AIS) for differentiated instruction to help struggling learners

  • Adds Studio in Media Arts course (0.2 FTE)

  • Adds morning aide coverage for students arriving early

  • Adds French Club

  • Adds 0.1 FTE Physical Education

High School


  • Adds CISCO Networking course (0.4FTE) and materials

  • Adds technology equipment for student use (Vex & Vernier)

  • Adds a plotter printer for design use

  • Adds 1.0 School Counselor/Social Worker

  • Adds 0.3 FTE English

  • Adds 0.3 FTE Social Studies

  • Adds 0.25 FTE Science

  • Adds 0.1 FTE Physical Education

  • New software for AP Computer Science (Edhesive)

  • New software to improve student writing (Turnitin)

  • Advisors for extracurricular clubs including Pep Band, Acoustic Jams, Gay Straight Alliance, No Place for Hate, Best Buddies

  • Restores Environmental Club

Athletics


  • Adds assistant coaches for lacrosse, field hockey, basketball, baseball and softball

  • Creates a Unified Bowling Team for students with and without disabilities

  • Adds equipment including new field hockey cages and camera system