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Budget process underway in Bethlehem

Filed in Archive by on February 17, 2017

The Board of Education began public discussion of the 2017-18 Bethlehem Central School District budget at its meeting on February 15 with a look at preliminary budget figures which show a baseline budget gap of approximately $762,000, an amount lower than anticipated.

“When we were wrapping up the budget process last year, our multi-year budget forecast showed an estimated $1.1 million budget gap for 2017-18. We are pleased to report this figure is, in fact, considerably lower than that,” said Chief Business and Financial Officer Judith Kehoe.

“As a starting point we are in a better position than we have seen in recent years,” said Kehoe. “We have several tools to address this gap and continue to strengthen our educational programs and these will be the focus of our discussions moving forward.”

The Board of Education is required to adopt a proposed 2017-18 budget prior to April 17. District residents will vote on the spending plan on Tuesday, May 16.

In her presentation to the board, Kehoe said baseline expenditures for the fiscal year that begins July 1 are approximately $97.3 million, or less than one percent more than the current year’s budget. This level of expenditures assumes no changes to staffing or programs for the 2017-18 school year, Kehoe explained.

View the Feb. 15 BCSD budget presentation on YouTube.

Ms. Kehoe said the baseline expenditure increase of 0.84 percent is the result of a combination of lower rates for retirement contributions, relatively stable health care costs, and cost efficiency measures undertaken by the district over the last several years.

“We have benefitted from a culture of fiscal restraint, working hard with our employees to contain costs where we can,” said Kehoe.

Baseline revenues for 2017-18, that assume no increase in the tax levy and are based on state aid projections included in Governor’s proposed 2016-17 state budget, are estimated at $96.6 million, she said.

The amount of estimated state aid the district would receive under the Governor’s Executive budget proposal is estimated to increase $35,000 over current year state aid. This amount could increase as the state budget process moves forward, explained Kehoe.

Tax cap is 1.31 percent

At the meeting, Kehoe outlined the district’s tax cap calculation which revealed a Maximum Allowable Tax Levy (MATL) increase for Bethlehem of 1.31 percent in 2017-18. If the Board of Education were to adopt a budget with a tax levy at the limit of 1.31 percent, she said, it would generate approximately $841,000 for the district.

“As we go through the process, if the Board votes to levy taxes that requires a simple majority vote on the budget, that amount would need to be at or below the 1.31 percent increase,” said Kehoe.

As the budget development process moves forward, Kehoe told the board, the district will identify areas where cost savings may be available, including salary breakage from retirements. Opportunities for adding to educational programs and addressing areas of need identified by district leaders will be the subject of forthcoming meetings.

Schedule of upcoming meetings can be found below:

​March 1, 2017
Board of Education Meeting, 7 p.m. Transportation, Bus Replacement Plan, Operations & Maintenance, Technology

March 15, 2017
Board of Education Meeting, 7 p.m. Athletics, Special Education and Student Services

April 4, 2017 (Tuesday)
Board of Education Meeting, 7 p.m. Instructional Staffing and Programming

April 12, 2017
Board of Education Meeting, 7 p.m. Last date for budget adoption

All meetings will take place at Bethlehem Central High School.