On Tuesday, May 16, Bethlehem Central School District voters will consider a $106.7 million budget for the 2023-24 school year that prioritizes small class sizes, provides additional support for student wellness, and increases data security.
The proposal includes a budget increase over the current year of 3.89% and would include a 2.30% tax levy increase. The plan does not include any use of the district’s fund balance.
The proposed budget for the coming school year was adopted unanimously by the Board of Education at its April 5 meeting.
A student-centered budget for the new school year
The proposed 2023-24 budget totals $106,691,303, a $3,993,303 increase compared to the current budget. The increase of 3.89% is below the annual rate of inflation (8.0%).
The spending plan was developed during several weeks of public meetings that began in February. The proposed budget is intended to support the district’s four main priorities of academics, character, community and wellness.
Small class sizes, which have been a priority over the last three years, will remain. At the elementary level (K-5), class sizes average 18 students per section; at the secondary level, core courses have 21-22 students per section on average.
“The pandemic brought unique challenges to schools and to our students,” said Superintendent Jody Monroe. “The most important lesson we have learned as educators is that smaller learning environments and personalized attention are the most essential tools we have for keeping students on the path to success.”
The budget plan reinforces student wellness with the addition of a social worker to assist students and families through a partnership with the Saratoga Center for the Family.
Instructional support for teachers is also included in the budget. A new elementary instructional coach would provide K-2 teachers with support in reading instruction and phonics. The proposed budget would also add a second instructional technology coach to support teachers in integrating technology in the classroom.
The additions to instructional staff in the district are offset by the reduction of 2.9 FTE teaching positions. These targeted reductions in instructional staff are based on declines in enrollment in certain grades and classes.
Technology in the proposed budget includes the scheduled replacement of Chromebooks every four years. In 2023-24, devices at three grade levels (grades 1, 5 and 9) will be replaced. Online privacy and security are priorities in the budget with multiple layers of filtering and monitoring to protect student safety while they are online. The district is also planning a new Security Operations Center to provide 24/7 network monitoring, protection, detection, investigation, and response to threats to cybersecurity.
Proposed tax levy increase is 2.30%, below the allowable tax cap
The proposed 2023-24 budget includes a tax levy increase of $1,591,965, or 2.30%. The amount is below the district’s maximum allowable tax levy increase under New York state’s tax cap calculation (3.08%).
If approved, a tax levy increase of 2.30% would result in tax rate changes for homeowners that are estimated to change as follows:
- Town of Bethlehem: Increase by 2.65%, or $56 more per $100,000 of assessed property value
- Town of New Scotland: Decrease of 2.01%, or $46 less per $100,000 of assessed property value
Important: The tax rate changes are estimates only. Often the tax rates differ between towns because of equalization rates set by the New York State Office of Real Property Services. The district sets final tax rates in August, after the budget is approved and after the towns finalize assessment figures and the state confirms equalization rates.
Bus proposition seeks three new vehicles
New York State law requires the district to receive voter approval to borrow money for capital expenditures such as bus purchases.
At a cost of $533,720, the 2023-24 Bus Purchase Proposal would pay for three vehicles. This year’s bus replacement plan includes one 70-passenger electric bus and two eight-passenger Suburban-type vehicles for student transportation.
The proposition as listed on the ballot totals $568,720. This figure includes a $35,000 contingency for supply chain issues.
The cost of the purchase of new buses is reimbursed by the state, currently at a rate of about 68 percent. The estimated final cost to local taxpayers would be $170,790.
The proposed bus purchase proposition continues the district’s commitment to reducing carbon emissions and would help the district in meeting New York’s new mandate that requires school districts to have a fully electrified bus fleet by 2035.
Board of Education election
On May 16, residents will also elect three members of the Board of Education. Four candidates will appear on the ballot in the following order:
- Christine Beck
- Ewan McNay
- Holly Dellenbaugh
- Meredith Moriarty
The budget vote and board election will be held at Bethlehem Central High School on Tuesday, May 16 from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. in Gym A. To vote, you must be at least 18 years old, a U.S. citizen and a resident of the Bethlehem Central School District for at least 30 days prior to the vote.
Absentee ballots are available for the May 16 Annual Budget Vote and Board of Education Election.
Absentee ballots are available at the link below or from the district clerk, Brittany Barrett, and will be issued upon request to residents who will be out of town or unable to vote at the polls due to illness or disability.
You must complete an application to receive an absentee ballot. The application must be received by the district clerk at least 7 days before the election if the ballot is to be mailed to the voter, or the day before the election, if the ballot is to be delivered personally to the voter. Please mail or drop off your application to the below address.
Brittany Barrett, District Clerk, Bethlehem Central School District Educational Services Center, 700 Delaware Avenue, Delmar, NY, 12054, (518) 439-7098
If you request an absentee ballot be sent to you by mail, a completed absentee application must be received by the district clerk at least seven days before the vote – by Tuesday, May 9 at 5 p.m.
If you plan to pick up the absentee ballot in-person at our District Office building you have until the day before the vote to submit an absentee application – Monday, May 15 by 5 p.m.
Completed absentee ballots must be received by the district clerk by 5 p.m. on the day of the vote, May 16.
The annual BCSD budget newsletter will be in mailboxes approx. 7-10 days before the vote on May 16. View a digital copy of the newsletter here [PDF].
If you are unable to access the PDF file above, please contact the Communications Office at 518-439-3650.
Kids Vote, Too!
On School Budget Vote Day, May 16, students in grades K-5 will have an opportunity to cast their own votes as part of Kids Vote, Too! While they will not be able to decide on a district spending plan for next year, they will be able to take part in the democratic process by voting for the positive message stickers they would like to see used at their schools in 2023-24. The stickers were designed by students at each of the district’s five elementary schools. Check out what students will be voting for as part of Kids Vote, Too!