BETHLEHEM — With the full restoration of the Gap Elimination Adjustment, members of the Bethlehem Central School District Board are carefully considering how to allocate increased funds.
Budget presentations made over the last few weeks revealed that departments are still in desperate need of state funds which were greatly reduced when the GEA was established in 2009. Officials estimate that the district lost roughly $13 million of aid as a result.
With increased state funding, the district is weighing a number of finance items proposed by the departments. With a wealth of options before them, members of the School Board decided during their April 5 meeting to hold off on adopting the final budget until its April 19 meeting.
The total net cost of the additional requests is $1,401,050, after factoring in the removal of both International Baccalaureate (IB) funding (an advanced instructional program the district had considered investing in) and a sixth grade team at the middle school, thereby reducing staff by 0.8.
A total $27,816,000 in state funding will be received this year – $179,000 more than originally proposed.
The requests include:
• $18,000 to replace contracted part-time trainer with full-time district employed trainer
• $12,300 to add modified boys and girls cross-country and track and field teams.
The athletic trainer attends to the medical needs of student athletes during practices. The trainer also oversees the return to play process, which deals with concussion management. According to Athletic Director Leonard Kies, this task takes an enormous amount of monitoring. Last year close to 80 middle school and high school students underwent the process.
The athletic trainer also needs to be a certified first aid and CPR instructor, and could thus train and re-certify other district employees, such as physical education and health teachers, who must have their certifications updated yearly. Last year, the district spent close to $4,000 to re-up certifications. The athletic trainer could also assist with student CPR training, now required by state law before graduation.
Adding modified teams
has the potential of reducing student management responsibilities of varsity track and field coaches, who are responsible for over 100 students, and would provide middle school students with more athletic opportunities.
• $195,000 to add five elementary bus runs
• $45,000 to restore an assistant supervisor.
These requests are in addition to the bus replacement request, which requires voter approval. The district is looking to buy 15 new buses at a cost not to exceed $1,413,000. All but three would replace aging vehicles that have not been replaced in the past six years due to budgetary constraints.
One additional route would be added at each of the five elementary schools to ease student management responsibilities of bus drivers. Elementary principals have reported disobedience problems on routes. Most routes transport about 40 children, said Director Cindy Jurewicz, and all are under the watch of the bus driver.
Jurewicz has also requested a 0.6 supervisor position eliminated several years ago be returned to her department.
• $57,100 for one full-time custodian at Bethlehem Central Middle School.
The additional staffing would bring the department back to 2009 levels. The custodian would aid in nighttime cleaning. According to department director Greg Nolte, “There is a lot of stress on the nighttime staff. Our buildings are being used more than ever, and there’s been some work that they’ve had to reserve for summer and other breaks in the year.” Additional staffing would address this issue.
Special Education and Student Services Dept.
• $363,580 for 2.6 teachers and 5 aides.
• $256,000 in increased BOCES funding.
• $2,000 to increase substitute nurse rates.
• $28,000 to increase non-instructional substitute nurse rates.
It has been several years since the department has received funding. Department Director Kathleen Johnston has requested additional staff to restore the department to previous levels, create an intensive skills class at the high school and to account for increased student need. Increased student need also accounts for the request for increased BOCES funding (which offers special needs services as well as career-oriented classes), as the district has seen an uptick of students requesting BOCES services for mental health issues. Johnston requested increased nurse substitute wages as it has been difficult to find substitutes at the current wage.
Substitute custodians, bus attendants, aides and cafeteria staff currently receive $10 per hour. Finding substitutes has been difficult at this wage, given market values. The substitutes would receive a wage increase to $11 or $12 per hour.
• $424,070 in additions
Primary requests include increasing substitute teacher pay from $95 to $105 per day and the rate for home instruction tutors. The district also plans to extend noon hour lunch and recess time at the elementary level, requiring increased noon hour aide time, and thusly an increased noon hour aid budget in accordance. Supervisors of the five core subjects, who currently are required to perform as a 0.2 instructor, would be absolved of this responsibility, to focus solely on supervising, thus requiring what is the equivalent of one full-time educator.
Secondary Requests include a request from Lab School to create an honors program at a cost of $28,320; funds to repair and replace music department equipment; to train a new advanced placement chemistry teacher; restore the middle school and high school art clubs; fund Project Lead the Way; restore a library media coordinator position; and to restore a k-12 guidance counselor.
As a result of the increased state funding, the budget’s tax cap was reduced from a 1.45 percent increase to a 1.34 percent increase, which will yield $64,328,000.
A full list of budgetary requests is available on the school district’s website, www.bethlehemschools.org. A public budget vote will occur Tuesday, May 17.