Editor's note: This letter references a Feb. 28 meeting at the high school library, but that meeting will be held in the Middle School Library Media Center.
Editor, The Spotlight:
The 2012-2013 Budget process has begun and it is already evident that we are heading for a very difficult situation. The quality education that Bethlehem’s kids get is in jeopardy and everyone needs to start paying attention. Most voters in Bethlehem do not even bother to vote in the School Budget Elections despite it having a direct bearing on their taxes, (renters note that this will be reflected in rent increases). Last year only 4,954 people voted out of some 21,000 registered voters. Last year the budget passed by a 66 percent margin despite support from only 15.6 percent of the electorate. You should note that only 60 percent is required to override the much vaunted tax cap. I supported the final budget and firmly believe that we will have to blow through the Tax Cap this year just to maintain our local education programs.
Here are a few points to keep in mind:
The BCTA is in contract negotiations. We need a contract that is fair to the teachers and allows the District to plan. Last minute give backs are not the answer. I believe that taxpayers will support tax increases necessary for programs. They will not support them for teacher raises and benefit increases that are larger than most of them have received recently.
Unfunded Mandates are a huge problem and the things that have been done for relief are a joke and have little financial impact. The NYS Legislature and the Educrats at 89 Washington Ave. are digging in their heels. Senator Breslin has been in office since 1997 and probably voted for many of these unfunded mandates. He is up for reelection. Tell him what you think, he lives right here among us.
There is a lot to digest here but you won’t have a grasp on the issues unless you go to some of the Budget Forums. The next one is on February 28 at the BCHS Library. Wouldn’t it be nice if the crowd was so large they had to move it to the Cafeteria?
Philip W. Carter