Tax levy hike at 2 percent, 14 faculty positions would be cut
The Bethlehem Central School District on Wednesday, April 6, adopted an $86.8 million spending plan for the 2011-12 school year.
The proposal, which will go to voters May 17, calls for a 2 percent increase in the tax levy. The budget is $1.5 million less than the current year's budget.
The school board has been approving various cuts for weeks now, including the closure of Clarksville Elementary School. Four teachers will be shed in that controversial move, but another 10 faculty positions will be cut elsewhere, in addition to other staffing reductions.
The assumed number of layoffs was much higher before the Bethlehem Central Teachers Association offered a partial pay freeze in the coming year. Other unions made similar concessions. The district also recently saw $465,000 in aid money returned in the final state budget, though it will still take a significant revenue hit year-to-year.
Anything helps, but we are still at a loss of about $2.3 million for our state aid funds, said Assistant Superintendent Jody Monroe.
The teaching reductions will mean fewer class sections and slightly increased average class sizes next year. Overall enrollment is projected to decrease, however.
The board did decide to return one teacher to the elementary level, making the total number of faculty cuts there seven. There was concern expressed by several parents at the meeting that class sizes at Elsmere Elementary would be too high, with classes of 26 and 27 students common. A combination classroom for grades 4 and 5 proposed for that school also drew negative comments.
"As an educator myself, those are high numbers...especially in the second grade," said parent Chris Jansen, one of several in the audience who protested the class sizes at Elsmere.
Though it's not definite what the exact effect of that teacher addition will be, Superintendent Michael Tebbano advised the board to adopt it.