BC pegs budget gap at $5M

District calls on community to lobby for more state aid

Bethlehem Central High School, winter 2012.

Bethlehem Central High School, winter 2012.

— The district faced a similar shortfall last year of about $4.4 million, a figure that included the use of $1.7 million in reserve funds. Officials are still unsure how much, if any, reserve funds will be used to bridge the new gap.

Any additional cuts would most likely have to come from programming and extracurriculars to maintain an appropriate student-to-teacher ratio, officials said.

“We're OK for now, but it’s like tension in a rubber band that's stretched as far as it can be,” Douglas said.

Bethlehem Central school board members also unanimously voted in January to allow two propositions to go before the public in March on bonding for facilities upgrades and a new turf athletic field.

The facilities upgrades stand at about $20.2 million, with athletic turf costs at about $3.5 million. If the field proposition were not passed by the public, upgrades and drainage repairs would still be made to the existing grass playing field. If both proposals were passed, annual taxes would rise by about $20 for a home valued at $100,000 over the 20-year life of the bonds.

Any tax increases from the bond would be on top of those expected for the 2013-14 budget.

The district is now asking parents, town residents and staff to advocate along with the district for mandate relief and a return to previous state aid levels.

“You can see that the numbers don't add up and that's why our communities need to finally rally and say enough is enough,” Douglas said.

The next meeting about the budget will take place on Wednesday, Feb. 27, and will focus on operations, maintenance and athletics.

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