State funds help lower BC 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, but STAR benefits are being cut in town for the year.

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.

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."

The news of the increased state funding comes as Bethlehem residents who receive a STAR exemption are being told they will see an increase to their school tax bill of $72.68.

"I feel it is important to notify residents about this change to the New York State STAR program because I am very concerned about the impact on our seniors with this adjustment," said Bethlehem Town Supervisor Jack Cunningham.

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.

"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."

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