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School district gears up for budget season

Beginning in January, the Bethlehem Central School District will be looking for feedback from the community on its budget as it gears up for a busy number-crunching season certain to contain several question marks during uncertain economic times.

Superintendent Michael Tebbano said that he and the school board would meet with the citizen's budget group committee to help flesh out an agenda for the upcoming public meetings.

We want to utilize that committee and get input on how we should go forward, Tebbano said.

The budget group met for two previous school budgets, and Tebbano said he wants to keep the committee together and active during this year's process.

In the midst of budget talks, the district announced in mid-October that it had enacted "non-essential spending guidelines" as a precautionary measure against a faltering economy and the very real possibility of state aid cuts to education.

"We just have to make people sensitive to the fact that essential programs will remain intact," Tebbano said. "However, we are also aware that state aid may be on table when the state Legislature meets in November."

Tebbano said the district has seen a 10 percent increase in costs over the year and wanted to put a proactive spending freeze in place in order to continue the current level of quality for the suburban district.

One of the cuts that caught the attention of parents and teachers was the discontinuation of school field trips, with certain exceptions such as Elementary Children's Theater, athletics, select Lab School field trips and previously scheduled and paid for trips.

Tebbano said the field trip freeze has already netted the district a savings of close to $100,000.

"In the current economic crisis, business, families and governments at all levels are making difficult financial decisions. BC is no different," Tebbano said. "We must take proactive and precautionary measures to hold down spending and identify cost avoidances when possible."

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