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We need everyone involved in our budget process
Dear parents and community members,
Joining the district in the middle of the year reminds me that our educational tasks are very cyclical. It seems as though we just finished last year’s budget process and the numerous reductions that were needed to balance a district’s program and costs. I get a feeling of déjà vu as we all look to our Governor and State leaders to establish a reasonable spending plan and hope that there will be assistance in addressing the needs of each portion of the budget without losing services.
The state budget process over the past few years certainly has created a sense that we all need to get our finances in order. I commend the Governor, Senate and Legislature on this new direction, and I only wish that it would come with a more positive tone than the rhetoric of using a “broken school system” as a political punch line. The Bethlehem Central School District has always strived to provide the best education possible and the political rhetoric is not helping our school or any other in trying to be the best that it can be.
When we look at national ratings that are not politicized, we are perennially a high-performing state. Bethlehem, specifically, is one of the top schools in the area and we continue to focus on this mission in spite of the misinformation flowing about in political circles.
So, now that I have the stage set, the question remains: Can we do more with less?
The district is embarking on the development of next year’s spending plan, a process has really been in the works since early in the school year. But now that the Governor has submitted his spending plan, we can really start to work on ours.
It is important to note that there was supposed to be a 4 percent increase in school funding this year and substantial mandate relief. However, I must inform you that there has been hardly any relief from the Governor’s office on the most costly mandates, and our district has only seen an increase in state aid of about $57,000. This is far below the anticipated 4 percent widely discussed by our leaders.
It is that time again when we will need to look
at how we are going to balance our financial needs for the coming
year. The problem is that without the support of state revenues the
only other source to make up budget shortfalls is the local level.
For years this has become the tradition, as the State is moving more
and more costs to the localities and adding costly mandates which
they will not fund.
This leaves schools with an unpopular choice: cut programs or levy a higher tax. Over the past several years, the administration and Board have risen to the fiscal challenge and strategically made reductions in the budget that, although deep, maintained our academic program. This unfortunately can no longer continue as there really are no more areas to reduce without effecting program and services in the district.
So, what are we supposed to do? That is a
question facing every school across the state. We will need to come
together as a community and develop our own solution for the
situation that we are in.
And when I say “we,” I mean it. These are our children, our taxes, our programs and this is our school district. In order to do what is right for our district, we need everyone to participate in the budget process.
I encourage you to attend our budget forums on Wednesday, Feb. 15, and Tuesday, Feb. 28. If you can’t attend, but would like to be involved, we’ll be webcasting those meetings and hosting an online discussion as well. We will continue to provide the best and most up-to-date budget information we can and will try address any questions you may have as we move through this difficult process.
Thank you for your interest, and, please feel
free to contact me anytime at
Dr. Thomas Douglas
Superintendent of Schools