Jump in BOCES costs unexpected

Budget talks continue as board hears from athletic, maintenance departments

— As budget discussions continue for Bethlehem schools, district officials were recently notified that program tuition charges from BOCES would be significantly increasing for the coming year.

Superintendent Tom Douglas said the district is now calculating what the impact will be for Bethlehem schools. An initial estimate found the increase could be as much as $300,000. Douglas said they are evaluating alternatives.

“This increase was not expected,” said Douglas on Wednesday, March 19.

The additional costs come at a time when the district is facing a more than $4.8 million budget gap. The district now estimates Bethlehem will only receive about $1 million in state aid. Another $1.9 million would be raised if the school board put forward the maximum allowable tax levy of 3.12 percent. The district has about $1.75 million in fund balance reserves it can use to offset costs for the coming year, according to District Business Officer Judi Kehoe.

The same night, both the Operations and Maintenance Department and the Athletics Department presented their budgets for the coming year.

New Athletic Director Len Kies said he was proposing no changes for the coming year, with the only budgetary increase being for officials fees, tournament fees, professional services and pay for trainers. The district has 75 sports teams between the modified, freshman, junior varsity and varsity levels.

Kies said if cuts were needed, he would look to reduce the number of levels from four to three. Although it costs relatively little to pay for a sports team compared with the rest of the budget, Kies said Section II is one of the few in the state to still have freshman level sports teams.

“As an educator, I think having modified is imperative,” said Kies. “Community teams are great, but there's a difference between learning to represent your school and be a part of a team.”

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