The Bethlehem Central Board of Education made changes to its adopted 2013-14 school year budget in an early morning meeting held less than two weeks after the spending plan was adopted in a 6-1 vote.
The budget remains at $90.4 million and would still raise the property tax levy by 3.59 percent, which is 0.05 percent under the hike allowed by the state tax cap.
On Monday, April 29, The board shifted funds from equipment and supply purchases in order to retain a $100,000 capital improvement project, keep freshman sports and keep 1 full-time-equivalent hall monitor position and a 0.2 FTE health instructor position in the budget.
“For the first time in what seems like a long time, the Bethlehem community will vote on a budget that does not reduce or eliminate educational opportunities for our children,” said board President Diane Giacone Stever in a statement.
The $221,000 worth of expenses will be shifted into this year’s budget. Among the items to be shifted are $46,500 worth of copier paper, $21,000 for website enhancements, $5,000 for athletics uniforms and $12,000 for carpet replacements at Slingerlands Elementary School.
District Business Officer Judi Kehoe said BC is expecting to finish the 2012-13 year with a surplus, owing in part to an agreement with the teachers union reached after the budget was passed that amounted to $745,000 in savings.
“We knew we were going to come in below budget, substantially so, because of some of the savings from the teachers contract that had settled after the budget was adopted last year,” she said.
The school board elected to use some of that windfall for these changes. Superintendent Thomas Douglas emphasized the change leaves the district in good fiscal shape.
“We feel that it is responsible and reasonable to preserve these educational opportunities for at least one more year,” he said in a statement. “We will certainly have to consider them, as we do all potential reductions, on an annual basis, but for now, this proposed budget keeps us on track to maintain our excellent educational offerings at an investment the community has historically supported.”
The elimination of freshman sports teams in particular turned out to be a sticking point in the original adopted budget. Board member Caitrin Navarro cited the sporting issues when she voted against the budget on April 17, saying the $70,000 savings was not worth cutting a full level – or 11 teams – of sports.
Since the change does not affect the size of the total budget or the tax levy, it was not necessary for the school board to hold an official vote, though all seven members were present at Monday’s special meeting.
A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for the Board of Education meeting Wednesday, May 8, at 7 p.m. District residents can vote on the proposed 2013-14 budget Tuesday, May 21, from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., at the high school.