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BETHLEHEM: State funds lower school tax rate

The projected tax rate increase in the Bethlehem School District budget proposal has dropped about a third of a percent as a result of state funds secured by the area's assemblyman.

The projected tax rate increase went down from the original 4.14 percent to 3.79 percent for Bethlehem residents and lowered from 5.24 percent to 4.24 percent for New Scotland residents.

Assemblyman Tim Gordon, I-Bethlehem, secured $500,000 for the district from the state budget, which was supported by Sen. Neil Breslin, D-Delmar, and subsequently passed in the finalized state budget in April. The funding was secured after the district's board of education adopted the tentative budget on March 18, which in turn lowered the original projected increase.

A statewide budget vote for local schools and libraries will be held May 20, when residents will also vote on school board members and library trustees. In Bethlehem, this year's vote will take place at the high school off of Delaware Avenue.

The proposed $84.8 million spending plan for the district will remain the same, according to school officials, but the additional funding will take some of the budget's burden off of the local taxpayers. Out of the $500,000 netted by Gordon, $175,000 is being used to lower the estimated tax rate and the other $325,000 will take the place of capital construction funding to help equip and furnish Eagle Elementary,

The new school, the district's first in more than 50 years, will be open in the fall.

Newly adjusted projections show that the school tax rate for Bethlehem will be $18.78 and $18.46 for New Scotland, which is down 6 cents per $1,000 of assessment from earlier projections.

This means that the owner of a $200,000 home in Bethlehem can expect an increase of $138 in their school taxes, and the same homeowner in New Scotland will see an estimated $172 increase.

Bethlehem School Board President James Lytle lauded the extra state funding as both good for the school and good for the taxpayer.

We very much appreciate our legislators' efforts on behalf of Bethlehem Central, Lytle said. "It provides district taxpayers with some tax relief, while also allowing the district to equip Eagle and conserve $325,000 in capital construction funding."

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