Bethlehem Central High School
continued Douglas said the budget increase is mostly due to the fixed rate of retirement costs, which is mandated by the state. He said the district is obligated by law to pay for increases in retirement rates, and said the higher rates should not be blamed on any of the district’s teachers and staff.
According to the superintendent, the strain of the recession and loss of state funds has led to a 16.4 percent loss of staff in recent years. This has led to larger class sizes, trouble balancing class sections, and more travel for staff as they are asked to spend their time between schools.
Douglas said he is hoping the state will finally restore the funds withheld through the Gap Elimination Adjustment, and he called on the community to continue to advocate for New York’s schools.
“We’ve had to rely on our local tax base to make up for what the state had promised us,” he said.
Transportation budget updates
At the meeting, the district also held its first department budget presentations.
Director of Transportation Al Karam said his department had been able to cut costs for parts and supplies, along with operational and garage-building costs. Kehoe said the renewal of the district’s insurance policy also saved $25,000, with $15,000 earned from the sale of several buses.
However, the department’s budget is set to increase by nearly $200,000 because of staff salary increases.
Karam said the department needs little, but called this year “ the season of snow.” He said time and money are being lost having to dig the buses out and asked for $26,000 to purchase a snow removal machine.
“It’s laborious work, and a lot of us are no longer young,” Karam said.
Buses would drive through the machine while it removes ice and snow from the top and sides of the bus, instead of staff having to use long brooms and rakes.