Editor, The Spotlight:
We’d like to take the time to clear up some inaccuracies in the letter to The Spotlight written by Fred DiMaggio.
In his letter, the author states that “the Bethlehem administration and unions have opted for a 4.6 percent pay raise, while laying off teachers and cutting needed programs.” This is not the case.
An increase of $92,030 in the Administrative line in the proposed budget comes in part from a loss of state aid, namely Education Jobs Funding. The district has had to give back $12 million dollars in aid over the past three years through the Gap Elimination Adjustment so that the state legislature could balance its books on the back of public education.
We should also point out that the district budgeted for only the salary increases mandated by the Triborough Amendment, passed by those same Republicans and Democrats in the New York state legislature. Contract negotiations are underway, with all parties extremely sensitive to the financial challenges the district and community face. We should also note that all of the district’s bargaining units have either made concessions, deferments or taken freezes over the past three years.
The characterization of the district not abiding by a “2% tax cap” is misleading and we’d hate for the author or anyone else to think we are somehow out of compliance with a mythical tax cap. The much -touted two percent “tax cap” does not restrict any proposed tax levy increase to 2 percent. The law determines what level of support is needed for a budget to pass. Under the law, if the district had proposed a tax levy of $58.6 million, or a 2.94 percent increase, the budget would only need a simple majority to pass. After cutting $3.8 million, the Board decided on a tax levy of $59.2 million, or a 3.99 percent increase, in order to preserve some programming. At 3.99 percent, the budget proposes an increase of $81 per $100,000 of assessed value, versus an increase of $60 per $100,000 of assessed value that would have been levied at 2.94 percent. But that $20 difference now requires a supermajority to pass under the new tax levy legislation.