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Lights out: possibly no night games for Bethlehem athletics

The Bethlehem Central athletics department is on the chopping block in the district's latest round of reductions as the school faces a budget deficit and a cut in state aid.

During the Bethlehem Board of Education's Wednesday, March 18, meeting, a unanimous decision was made to tentatively eliminate all night games and make other reductions totaling $35,380.

Emotions ran high during the three-hour meeting as parents and community members all spoke on behalf of keeping money in programs that they considered the most important.

Superintendent Michael Tebbano told the large crowd gathered at the meeting that he understands their concerns, and he and the board are doing their best to balance the school budget during a nationwide economic crisis.

Since the beginning of the year, we've been taking these budget sessions very seriously. We need to make education affordable to the community, he said. "I think we need to prepare for the worst-case scenario."

Tebbano said reductions are being made across the board, and he asked residents to "look at the bigger picture" and not at any one particular program, department or interest.

"In the meantime," he said, "we have to prepare for the worst."

Eliminating night games would save the district $10,000 from the budget, and Tebbano said, "The lights would remain off for the rest of the year."

District officials said they have no plans to close the budget gap with taxes alone, so the board has been reviewing three tiers of potential reductions during presentations on each department and budget area.

Thus far, the tentative budget reductions reached on March 4, 11 and 18, have reduced the initial $89.9 budget figure, which would be the budget carried over from last year without any changes or tax increases, down to nearly $88.6 million at this point.

Parents asked if they could help pay some costs of their children's sports programs in order to minimize cuts, but Tebbano said after speaking with the district's attorney that the state wouldn't approve of any "pay to play" plans put forth by the school.

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