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Residents give Bethlehem a pass on budget

Bethlehem residents gave the school district a passing grade on its proposed budget and $1.2 million bus replacement proposition. They also returned one longtime board of education member to her seat and voted in a new one.

The Bethlehem Central School District budget of $87.56 million for the 2009-2010 school year passed by a tally of 2,410 votes to 1,215, or with 66.8 percent of the vote (see related story, page 5). The bus proposition passed by a vote of 2,109 to 1,492, or with 58.6 percent of the vote.

Out of five candidates running for the district's board of education, voters overwhelmingly chose to return Lynne Lenhardt to the board for her eighth three-year term and voted in Elsmere Elementary's PTA president Charmaine Wijeyesinghe for her first term.

Lenhardt commanded 34.1 percent of the votes cast for board of election with 1,965 votes and Wijeyesinghe narrowly beat out the third-place vote getter with 1,361 votes, or 23.6 percent. Patrick Greene came in with 21.4 percent of the vote at 1,234 votes.

The two other candidates, Peter Shawhan and Rudy Arias, came in with 831 votes and 370 votes, respectively.

The new budget constitutes a $2.8 million or 3.29 percent spending increase over this year's and offers a 2 percent tax levy increase. There will also be a 1.76 percent tax rate increase. That means an owner of a $200,000 home in Bethlehem would see an increase of $64 in his or her school taxes before any STAR benefit reductions were applied. The owner of a similar $200,000 in New Scotland would see an increase of $66 this year.

Just after 9 p.m. on Tuesday, May 19, a handful of school and library officials and board members and their families gathered at the Bethlehem High School auditorium to hear the results being read off from the lever machines.

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