BETHLEHEM: Budget group sees priorities

"Who do parents call, what is the chain of command?" asked Bierman. "If people can understand it and get concrete answers, I think it can sell."

Board president Stuart Lyman said one of the challenges the board faces is distilling the in-depth information and passing it on to the community.

"Our problem is how to share that information with the community in an effective way, and I am hoping this group can do that," Lyman said.

How to approach the senior community and voters without children enrolled in the district are other areas the citizens committee grapples with.

"Is there ever going to be a time when you propose a budget with no increase?" asked Mary Degroff, a senior citizen representative.

Officials said basic annual increases in cost of living, employee contracts, health insurance and energy costs would most likely prohibit any budget from ever staying the same. Loomis said the town of Bethlehem has been very active in trying to expand the tax base into the future.

"I have never seen a community more active in attracting development," said Loomis.

Town Comptroller Judith Kehoe, who represents the town on the committee, fielded questions regarding town assessments and why the school district did not receive a financial benefit from the latest reassessments.

Kehoe said that when reassessments were completed, some assessments may have gone up, but the overall school tax rate went down.

"In the fall of 2005, the Bethlehem school tax rate was $27.74 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. In the fall of 2006 after reassessments, the Bethlehem school tax rate dropped to $17.40 per $1,000 of assessed valuation," Kehoe said.

The advisory committee will continue its meetings with the school board until a 2007-2008 budget is complete. For information, visit www.bcsd.k12.ny.us""

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