main content starts here

School Budget Vote is May 21

Filed in Budget News by on May 1, 2019

2019-20 budget postOn May 21, Bethlehem Central School District voters will consider a $100.8 million budget for the 2019-20 school year that would increase spending by 2.06 percent and carry a tax levy increase of 2.03 percent, an amount below the district’s tax cap. The proposed budget for the coming school year was adopted unanimously by the Board of Education at its April 3 meeting.

In addition to the budget, voters will also elect two members of the Board of Education, decide on a bus proposition to replace aging vehicles in the district’s fleet, and consider a $10 million capital reserve fund to save money for future building projects.

Providing opportunities for all students

The proposed 2019-20 budget totals $100,829,000, a $2,039,000 increase over the current budget.

The plan was developed during several months of public meetings. It is intended to support the four goal areas outlined in the district’s 5-year strategic plan: academics, character, community and wellness. The strategic plan, that was designed to help guide decision making through 2024, was approved by the board in February.

In addition to preserving the district’s academic program, the proposed budget provides additional support for students’ social-emotional wellness and mental health, and provides greater opportunities for students to be involved, both at school and in the community. The budget proposal also supports the work of the district’s Committee for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusivity, which identifies initiatives K-12 to promote inclusion and ensure academic success for all students, from early learners making important transitions to high school students who may need added support to graduate.

Student safety is also a priority in the 2019-20 budget, with increased funding for school resource officers (police officers assigned to the schools), an additional hall monitor at the high school who will also oversee safety in the school’s parking lot and additional training and coaching supervision for the district’s hundreds of student-athletes.

“This budget was developed to honor the district’s mission to educate and prepare all students to reach their potential,” said Superintendent Jody Monroe. “The budget we have proposed and that the board has adopted, supports our academic programs and ensures healthy learning and development for all children who attend our schools.”

Lower retirement costs, salary savings close an early gap

While the recently enacted New York state budget included an additional $25,000 in state aid above what had been allocated for Bethlehem by the Governor in January, total state aid is expected to increase by approximately $401,000, or just 1.44 percent over the current year budget. The average aid increase for districts statewide is approximately 2.19 percent.

This state aid increase is reflected in the balanced budget plan. In addition to state aid, a baseline deficit of $1.5 million was offset in part by a reduction in retirement costs, including lower contributions to the Teachers’ Retirement System, as well as considerable breakage savings that occur when longtime employees retire and are replaced by newer employees at lower salaries.

A total of 29 Bethlehem faculty and staff have announced retirement this year.

To help balance the budget, the plan includes a proposed 2.03 percent tax levy increase, totaling $67,145,000, an amount below the district’s calculated tax cap. It is the seventh year in a row that the tax levy increase is at or below the tax cap amount. The tax levy is the total 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.

chart showing tax rate trendsIt is estimated that the proposed 2019-20 BCSD budget would result in the following:

The estimated 2019-20 tax rates reflect a continued equalization rate of 95 percent in the Town of Bethlehem and a decreased equalization rate of 92 percent in the Town of New Scotland.

Also impacting the projected tax rates are increases in assessment values of $18 million in the Town of Bethlehem and $1 million in the Town of New Scotland. The tax rate impact often varies from year to year.

“When the school district proposes its budget, the tax levy, or the total amount collected by the district, is the only number the district has any control over. It is not unusual for there to be differences in the resulting tax rates from year-to-year and from community to community,” said Chief Business and Financial Officer Judith Kehoe. “State equalization rates and local assessments are pivotal in determining how the school district’s tax levy is apportioned between the two communities within the district.”

In the 2018-19 school year, Kehoe said, equalization and other factors resulted in a school tax rate increase for Bethlehem residents of 1.57 percent and a tax rate decrease in New Scotland of 1.50 percent. For more information on reassessments visit: https://www.tax.ny.gov/pit/property/learn/reassess.htm

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

Kehoe said that the proposed 2019-20 spending plan reflects the district’s long-term fiscal planning and does not call for any use of fund balance. It is the fifth year in a row the district has not needed to tap into its fund balance, she said.

Vote Tuesday, May 21, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. in Gym A at the high school

Need more information about voting or how to fill out an absentee ballot?

Also on the May 21 ballot

Board of Education election


In addition to the budget, voters will also elect two members of the Board of Education.

Bus proposition


The district has proposed reducing its fleet of buses by one large bus. However, to replace aging vehicles, a bus replacement purchase referendum will appear on the May 21 ballot as a separate proposition from the school budget.

Capital reserve fund


A separate proposition will be placed on the May 21 ballot seeking voter approval to establish the 2019 Capital Reserve Fund, up to $10 million. Learn more about the proposed 2019 Capital Reserve Fund.

Budget Highlights

Districtwide


  • Establishes on-site mental health services for students through a partnership with Saratoga Center for the Family.
  • Provides funding for Passport for Good, an app that connects students with volunteer opportunities and helps track participation in school and community activities.
  • Provides funding to aid the work of the district’s Committee for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusivity, promoting inclusion and cultural proficiency in classrooms throughout the district.
  • Adds 0.8 FTE music teacher to provide more opportunities in the arts.
  • Provides funding for school resource officers — Bethlehem police officers assigned to work in schools.
  • Replaces furniture in K-12 classrooms, including outdated student desks and chairs.
  • Reduces 2.4 FTE special education teachers based on student needs and success of Response to Intervention (RtI) program.
  • Adds 1.0 FTE occupational therapist based on student needs.
  • Adds 1.0 FTE psychologist based on student needs.
  • Creates a new, centralized database for capital assets, including all building inventory, machines and equipment.

Elementary Schools


  • Adds K-5 science supplies and materials to support hands-on STEM learning.
  • Increases summer academic support for early learners in grades K-1.
  • Adds part-time funding for an instructional technology coach in each building.

Middle School


  • Adds 1.0 FTE social worker to address social and emotional needs of students.
  • Creates summer program to help students transition from elementary to middle school.
  • Adds opportunities for students to participate in Best Buddies club and the school musical.
  • Preserves athletic opportunities for students and expands lacrosse and volleyball programs to meet demand.

High School


  • Adds 2.4 FTE targeted instructional support for students at risk of not meeting graduation requirements.
  • Adds 1.0 FTE Social Worker to address social and emotional needs of students.
  • Adds 1.0 FTE hall monitor/parking lot attendant to enhance safety and supervision.
  • Provides rehearsal space for theater programs during renovation of auditorium.
  • Increases opportunities for students to participate in afterschool clubs, including the addition of Robotics.