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Bethlehem gets $3 million in pork

"I would like to publicly thank Mr. Gordon for all of his hard work," Cunningham said at the meeting. "The Vista Tech Park is important not only for Bethlehem, but for the entire area."

Gordon also managed to squeeze out another $500,000 of unrestricted state aid to the Bethlehem School District from the state budget on top of what the school is already projected to get.

Gordon said he went after more state funding for the district so it could be used to fill any gaps in school funding.

He said he hoped the additional aid would help take some burden off of Bethlehem's property taxpayers. The district adopted an $87.8 million budget, which will go to vote on May 20 at the district's high school. The budget would reflect a tax rate increase of 4.14 percent over last year's if it passes.

Residents will also be voting on a proposition that approve the purchase of 18 new buses.

This year's state budget provides an additional $950,360 in high-tax aid, which is meant for high-cost school districts such as Bethlehem, according to Gordon. The additional funding for highly taxed schools is aimed at helping to ease the tax burden, he added.

"Bethlehem schools are known for the first-rate education they provide to our kids. However, sustaining that quality education for our kids should not further burden local property taxpayers," Gordon said. "I could not sit by and let Bethlehem lose funding. Cuts lead to one of two outcomes " either a program would be lost or property taxpayers would face an additional tax burden."

Gordon said that the budget also rejects shifting preschool special evaluation costs to school districts, which would have shifted $42 million in costs to taxpayers. The plan also rejects a cut of $500,000, he said, and adds $600,000 more to the Education Department's Office of School Personnel Review and Accountability, which handles background checks for school personnel.

State Sen. Neil Breslin, D-Delmar, said Gordon is doing a pretty good job for a new kid on the block.

"For someone who's been around for only a little while," Breslin said, "that's a nice amount of pork for the town."

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