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Board adopts proposed 2018-19 school district budget

Filed in Archive, Budget News, District, District News by on April 11, 2018

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On May 15, Bethlehem Central School District voters will consider a $98.8 million budget for the 2018-19 school year that would increase spending by 1.7 percent and carry a tax levy increase of 2.4 percent. The proposed budget for the coming school year was adopted unanimously by the Board of Education at its April 10 meeting.

The proposed 2.4 percent tax levy increase, totaling $1,543,000, is below the district’s calculated tax cap. It is the sixth year in a row that the tax levy increase is below the tax cap amount. The tax levy is the amount of money the school district collects from property taxpayers. The resulting tax rate, or the number that determines how much a homeowner will pay in school taxes, depends on the equalization rate and the total assessed property value in the town where a homeowner resides.

It is estimated that the proposed 2018-19 BCSD budget would result in the following:

  • A 1.78 percent tax rate increase for property owners in the Town of Bethlehem, or an increase of approximately $37 per $100,000 in assessed home value.
  • A 1.29 percent tax rate decrease for property owners in the Town of New Scotland, or a decrease of approximately $27 per $100,000 in assessed home value.

The estimated 2018-19 tax rates reflect decreased equalization rates of 95 percent in the Town of Bethlehem and 96 percent in the Town of New Scotland. There are also increases in assessment values of $24 million in the Town of Bethlehem and $1 million in the Town of New Scotland that impact the tax rates. The tax rate impact often varies from year to year. In the current school year, equalization and other factors resulted in a school tax rate decrease for Bethlehem residents and a tax rate increase in New Scotland.

The tax rate changes above are estimates only. Tax rates are finalized in August.

On the ballot in May, in addition to the budget, voters will also elect two 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 16 deadline for returning candidate petitions.

Preserving educational opportunities for students

The proposed 2018-19  budget preserves the district’s educational program and student services. It includes staff reductions based on enrollment projections and student needs. The reductions are being made through attrition and reallocation of staff. A total of 27 faculty and staff have announced retirement this year.

The recently enacted New York state budget included an additional $161,000 in state aid above what had been allocated for Bethlehem in the executive budget proposed by the Governor in January. This additional revenue is reflected in the balanced budget plan and helped address what had been a multi-million dollar budget deficit for the coming school year. Faced with large increases in mandated pension and health care costs and special education costs for students receiving services outside of Bethlehem, the district identified savings in several areas including utility costs, transportation overtime, and savings related to retirements and breakage to close the gap. Breakage is the difference in salary costs that result when hiring newer employees to replace longtime employees who are retiring. Building and department leaders also prioritized spending requests to reflect constraints related to the increased costs.

The proposed 2018-19 budget totals $98,790,000, a $1,667,000 increase over the current budget.

Vote Tuesday, May 15, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. in Gym A at the high school

If approved by voters, the budget would: preserve all educational programs and services for students; reduce a net 6.9 FTE staff positions based on enrollment; reallocate 3.0 FTE in Special Education staff (where student enrollment has also declined) to meet student needs at the elementary and middle schools; provide funding for elementary science kits that provide hands-on learning opportunities; restore a Friday late bus for middle and high school students to allow greater participation in afterschool activities; add noon-hour support at the elementary and middle schools to increase safety and supervision of K-8 students; and provide a $200,000 buffer to accommodate for any unanticipated spike in Special Education costs in 2018-19.

For the fourth year in a row, the proposed 2018-19 spending plan uses no fund balance, consistent with the district’s long-term fiscal planning.

“This budget presented more challenges than we have seen in the last few years,” said Superintendent Jody Monroe. “Despite the volatility we experienced with some of our mandated costs, the budget we have proposed and that the board has adopted, preserves the instructional program we have been carefully rebuilding in recent years after a prolonged recession and related budget cuts.

“The proposed 2018-19 plan maintains the many educational opportunities for students we have in place for the students of Bethlehem,” said Monroe.

    Budget Highlights

    Districtwide


    • Reduces 1.0 FTE Special Education teacher based on enrollment
    • Moves 1.0 FTE Special Education teacher to elementary reading teacher position, based on student needs
    • Moves 1.0 FTE RtI Behavior Coach to Special Education classroom
    • Moves 2.0 FTE Aides to Students with Disabilities to support positions for middle school GROW Program
    • Reduces cost of professional development software
    • Adds a spending buffer for costs for out-of-district Special Education services which have been subject to recent fluctuations
    • Adds spring 2019 baseball rental fees while home field is refurbished

    Elementary Schools


    • Provides science kits to meet Next Generation Science Learning Standards that emphasize hands-on learning
    • Increases noon-hour aide support to enhance safety and supervision of K-5 students
    • Adds 1.0 FTE reading teacher (Reclassification of 1.0 Special Education teacher)

    Middle School


    • Restores a Friday late bus run so students can participate in afterschool activities or seek extra help
    • Eliminates one eighth grade team based on enrollment, with the following reductions:
      • 0.2 FTE English
      • 0.2 FTE Social Studies
      • 0.2 FTE Science
      • 0.2 FTE Mathematics
      • 0.2 World Languages
      • 0.2 Art
      • 0.1 Health
      • 0.1 Physical Education
      • 0.4 Technology
      • 0.2 Music 
    • Increases GROW program support staff to strengthen students’ organizational, life skills (Reclassification of 2.0 FTE Aides to Students with Disabilities)
    • Increases noon-hour support to enhance safety and supervision of 6-8 students

    High School


    • Restores a Friday late bus run so students can participate in afterschool activities or seek extra help
    • Adds 1.0 FTE Mathematics teacher
    • Makes the following enrollment-based staff reductions:
      • 0.2 FTE English
      • 0.4 FTE Social Studies
      • 0.25 FTE Science
      • 0.4 World Languages
      • 0.1 Art
      • 0.2 Health
      • 0.1 Physical Education
      • 0.2 Technology
    • Reduces spending on materials for CISCO networking class based on course needs