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BETHLEHEM — The Bethlehem Central School District will hold its 2020-2021 budget vote and Board of Education election on Tuesday, June 9 by absentee ballot only.
While the vote and election were originally scheduled for Tuesday, May 19, voting on June 9 by absentee ballot is due to Gov. Cuomo’s May 1 executive order which applies statewide amid COVID-19 concerns.
Absentee ballots will be mailed to qualified BCSD voters, who are already on the district’s poll list, on or by Tuesday, June 2. Ballots, which each includes a prepaid return envelope, can be mailed or physically dropped off at the high school’s dropbox. They must be completed and received by the district by 5 p.m. on June 9.
To learn more about how the absentee ballot voting works, visit www.bethlehemschools.org/budget-vote-and-board-election-is-june-9.
BCSD residents will be voting on a $103.5 million 2020-2021 school budget, an increase of $2.7 million from 2019-2020’s $100.8 million figure. The proposed budget was adopted unanimously by the Board of Education in its May 11 meeting. The annual budget hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, May 27.
The 2020-2021 school budget would increase spending by 2.64 percent and carry a tax levy increase of 2.34 percent, which equals the district’s tax cap. The tax rate would be increased by 1.1 percent for Bethlehem homeowners and 2.2 percent for New Scotland homeowners.
According to the district’s website, the budget includes $3 million in fund balance that would be used to offset expected mid-year state aid reductions because of COVID-19.
“We are being challenged to set a forward course against the backdrop of COVID-19,” said Superintendent Jody Monroe. “This plan allows us to honor the district’s mission while recognizing the impact of the public health emergency on state and local finances.”
Monroe added that the district initially anticipated $12.8 million in Foundation Aid as part of its 2020-2021 budget but now expects $9.8 million.
“When our school buildings closed and instruction moved online, unspent funds on things like electricity, fuel and the costs of hiring substitute teachers contributed to a higher than anticipated end-of-the-year fund balance,” she said. “For the last several years, the district has not used its fund balance for year-to-year budget expenses and instead directed it to fund reserves and stabilize long-term planning. The use of this level of fund balance as part of the proposed budget will help fill the revenue gap for the coming year.”
The proposed budget also increases office support, removes a supervisor position and adds a new routing specialist position in the district’s Transportation Department. The latter position would help handle high school bus routes and ridership as the high school will start at a new time at 8 a.m. It also adds a new Technology Help Desk technician at the middle school.
Twenty-seven faculty and staff members announced they were retiring this year.
BCSD residents will also vote on a proposition to purchase up to six large buses and seven small buses at a maximum cost of $1.2 million. These buses will replace older buses. The older larger buses are 13 years old with 73,000 miles each on average; the older smaller buses are 10 years old with 100,000 miles each on average.
The district’s website indicated that if voters approve the purchase, “the state would reimburse the district over a five-year period for about 62 percent of the cost of the new vehicles. The estimated local cost would be $459,800.”
For more information on the proposed budget, visit www.bethlehemschools.org/proposed-2020-21-budget-maintains-programs-in-a-time-of-uncertainty or www.bethlehemschools.org/budget.
BCSD residents will also vote by absentee ballot on June 9 to elect three candidates to fill three open seats on the Board of Education.
Board members are volunteers serving three-year terms on the Board of Education which has seven seats.
There are seven candidates this year:
The candidates gathered virtually for the Meet the Candidates Night on Wednesday, May 13, sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Albany County. They introduced themselves and talked about various important issues they believe are impacting the school district.
To view the full virtual Meet the Candidates Night video, watch the video below.