Parents frustrated with BC’s budget situation

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

— Parents expressed frustration towards what the cuts would do to Bethlehem’s reputation of providing a quality education, and many said the reason they moved to Bethlehem was because of its school system.

Tara O’Keeffe, a mother of two students in Slingerlands Elementary, said she has come to feel a sense of hopelessness listening to all of the proposed cuts.

“What I have the power to do and say is please raise my taxes,” she said. “I’m willing to pay more taxes, challenge the cap, so we can keep essentially what Bethlehem is and not lose that. We can do without so many things but we can’t do without a well-rounded education for our children.”

Tanya Choppy said she felt the district could save additional money if it would close another elementary school. This year, the district shuttered Clarksville.

“Looking at the enrollment numbers and the fact that Eagle and Slingerlands it looks like is going to have 460 to 480 students, if you close another school you could have four schools within that same range,” she said.

Other parents were angered by what they said was a lack of cooperation from teachers, staff and their unions to take pay cuts in trying times, and noted salaries and benefits make up the largest chunk of the budget.

Parent Mandy Fallon said she appreciated that Bethlehem’s teachers were the first in the state to make concessions in the past, but the same thing needs to happen this year.

“I guess I feel a little remiss that I’ve been sitting here tonight without some significant give from the teachers,” said Jim Devine. “I would ask once again that the teachers and the union step up to the plate on behalf of our children as they always have.”

The school board told parents it is currently in contract negotiations and could not comment on whether teachers and staff would seek their step raises for the coming year or not.

The next budget workshop will be held on Tuesday, April 3, and include a recap of the entire budget proposal. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget on Monday, April 23. The community will vote on the budget in May.

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