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Few speak up on eve of vote

BC’s school budget one of few to challenge tax cap

— After weeks of debate between Bethlehem Central school officials, parents and students regarding the 2012-13 school year budget, the final public hearing on the spending plan before the May 15 vote saw sparse attendance.

On Wednesday, May 2, the district once again briefed those in attendance about the $88,203,000 spending plan adopted by the Board of Education last month. Board members decided to challenge the state tax cap to minimize the number of cuts in next year's budget, and residents will vote on a 3.99 percent levy increase.

The new tax levy would reduce the budget gap to $3.8 million and $1.7 million in reserve funds would also be used to balance the budget. Under the tax cap law, for the budget to pass at least 60 percent of those voting will need to be in favor of the plan instead of a simple majority. If the spending plan is voted down the district would have the option of revising it and putting it to a second vote.

“This board is putting forth a proposal which they feel will move forward with all of the tools at their disposal,” said Superintendent Tom Douglas.

If the budget is approved by the public, reductions will fall midway into the second tier of a four-tier list of cuts established by the district. However, more than 56 full-time-equivalent positions could be eliminated, 22 of them teaching positions.

According to Chief Business and Financial Officer Judith Kehoe, the estimated tax rate increase is 3.72 percent for Bethlehem residents and 0.59 percent for New Scotland residents.

The estimated tax rate increase would mean a home in Bethlehem assessed at $100,000 would pay an additional $75 per year for and in New Scotland, $12. The district is recommending residents use the new tax calculator on the district’s website to determine how much they would pay based on the new tax levy increase.

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