The only true “cap” would be implemented if the budget is voted down twice: the new contingency rules would mandate the district to stay at the 2011-2012 tax levy amount of $56.9 million. That zero percent increase would require more than $6 million in cuts or reductions.
We agree with the author, however, when he says that the district’s approach to budgeting “couldn’t be more out of step with the public sector.”
That much is true. We actually develop the budget in public and invite the community to participate. Our budget is not developed by three men in a room, nor voted on in the dead of night. The legislative body that has the ultimate power over the proposed school budget is comprised of the people of Bethlehem and New Scotland who will be affected by it. This budget is the result of months of open and transparent dialogue with the community. It represents the feedback given to us by those who were part of the budget process and reflects their desire to balance fiscal responsibility with what they deem an excellent Bethlehem education.
It was state politics that got us into this morass of “2 percent tax caps” that are not caps - and more politicking is not the solution we need to get out of it.
When you vote on May 15, and we sincerely hope that you do, please bear in mind that participation in next year’s budgeting process begins the following day. We feel this proposed budget is part of a sound, long-term fiscal plan for the future of Bethlehem schools, and we hope you’ll be part of the process.
Dr. Thomas Douglas
BC Superintendent of Schools
Diane Giacone Stever
President, Bethlehem Board of Education