Bethlehem Central School District Chief Financial Officer Judith Kehoe noted in the 2019-2020 proposed budget that there is a baseline budget gap of around $1.5 million between $99.5 million in revenues and $101 million in expenditures, which would be addressed in the coming months.
Kehoe first presented the budget at the Board of Education meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 6 at 7 p.m. in the BC High School Library. In a later phone interview, she explained that the district will figure out ways to either lower expenses or raise revenues so that they match. “The key point is closing that gap as we go through weeks of the budgeting review process,” she said. “The gap is not anything to be alarmed about as we’re pretty much right where we expected to be at this time of year. This is routine and there’s always a baseline gap in every proposed budget.”
The district looks to meet with officials of different areas or departments from now through spring to further determine how to rework the proposed budget. Examples include meeting with Transportation and Technology on Feb. 27; Athletics, and Operations and Maintenance on Mar. 6; and Instructional Staffing and Programming, Special Education and Student Services on Mar. 20.
The proposed budget also assumes no estimated change regarding school taxes between the 2018-2019 budget and the 2019-2020 one for now— it remains at $65.8 million. Kehoe explained that it connects with how it’s “way too early” to fully determine the estimated impact on taxpayers yet, including what the new tax levy would be. “Whenever we first present the initial proposed budget, we opt to keep it the same as last year’s level because we’ll let the school board decide on how much of an increase,” she said. “They won’t know until they go through [the aforementioned departmental] meetings and decide whether to like seek more staffing levels or stop a school program or element.”
For that same reason, the school district does not yet know if it would receive more state aid; Kehoe’s presentation estimated that for now, it would get around $28.2 million for 2019-2020, a slight increase from approximately $27.9 million in 2018-2019.
The budget’s expenditures side would mostly see a slight increase in numbers from last year’s, including how salaries are estimated to increase marginally from $49.7 million (2018-2019) to $50.8 million; fringe benefits would rise a bit from last year’s $23.5 million to $23.8 million; and debt service would go from $11.9 million to $12.6 million.
During the presentation, Kehoe said that the district’s tax calculation would allow the property taxes in Bethlehem to be increased to a maximum of 4.08 percent without needing a super majority vote, although she noted that it does not necessarily mean it indeed would increase to 4.08 percent.
Looking ahead, the district’s Board of Education has to adopt a proposed budget by Apr. 17; a public hearing is scheduled at the BCHS Library for May 8 at 7 p.m.; and district residents can vote on it from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the BCHS gym on May 21. “It’s going to be a good budget year and we’ll keep watching the changes at incoming meetings so that we’ll have a balanced budget by April,” Kehoe concluded.
For more information about BCSD budgets, visit www.bethlehemschools.org/budget.