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Parents frustrated with BC’s budget situation

Gifted programs, teachers, librarians would be cut to meet tax cap

— After its latest meeting on Wednesday, March 28, the Bethlehem Central school board released the last of the budget cuts proposed by the district for the 2012-2013 school year. This final round focused on instructional programs and technology throughout all of the district’s seven schools.

Bethlehem Central is facing a $4.2 million budget gap for the coming school year, a figure that take into account plans to use $1.75 million from reserves and raise taxes 2.94 percent, the maximum allowed by the state tax cap. The figures do not reflect any state extra aid that the district could receive.

Because of skepticism that the state will provide further aid the district will be using the last of its reserves to fund the coming school year. Superintendent Thomas Douglas and other school officials have been stressing the actual budget gap is $7.7 million.

“This district is considered wealthy,” said Douglas. “This year that wealth hurt the district because the funding was shifted to less-wealthy districts across the state. Therefore, our gap grew more.”

School officials said the option of challenging the levy limit is still on the table, but input is needed from more members of the community. If the district puts forward a tax increase above the tax cap, then at least 60 percent of voters would have to approve it.

According to Chief Business and Financial Officer Judith Kehoe, for every percent the levy is raised an additional $570,000 would be earned through taxes. The average tax levy increase for Bethlehem Central over past 10 years is 4.93 percent.

At the meeting, Douglas said parents should keep in mind that the proposed cuts to instruction and technology only represent a quarter of the total budget.

“But it is probably the most meaningful because it is the mission of the district and that is education,” he said.

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