DELMAR – Bethlehem Central School District voters will consider a $102.7 million budget for the 2022-2023 school year that preserves all academic programs and expands support for students without a tax increase when they go to school. polls on Tuesday, May 17.
The proposal would increase annual spending by 0.65%. There would be no change to the tax levy – a 0% increase. The plan does not include any use of the fund balance.
The draft budget for the coming school year was unanimously adopted by the School Board at its April 6 meeting.
A student-centric budget with less than one percent increase in spending
The proposed budget for 2022-2023 totals $102,698,000, an increase of $661,000 over the current budget.
The spending plan was developed over several weeks of public meetings that began in February. The proposed budget is intended to support the district’s four main priorities of academics, character, community and wellness.
“We have been successful this year in providing safe in-person learning opportunities for all students while navigating the uncertainty of the COVID pandemic,” Superintendent Jody Monroe said. “Our students are incredibly resilient, but we cannot underestimate their needs for the future.
“The budget plan for next year would provide the resources needed to keep our students on track, keep them engaged, and create as supportive a school environment as possible,” Monroe said. “We are optimistic about what the school year ahead will look like, but what we have learned over the past two years is to be prepared for anything. This budget helps us in that preparation.
Curriculum additions are intended to improve support for students. To address student mental health, the budget would bolster the district’s Coordinated Care Team by adding a middle school social worker position and another social worker to work with K-12 students and their families.
The budget also includes funding for a full-time Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI). The position would assist the district in its efforts to create, implement and evaluate DEI initiatives at all levels.
The only reduction in teaching staff would be a full-time elementary teaching position. This reduction is based on the evolution of registrations. The lower grades, which have been a priority for the past two years, will remain. At the primary level (K-5), the average class size is 18 students per section; at secondary level, basic courses have an average of 21-22 students per section.
Technology in the proposed budget includes upgrades to Chromebook devices used by teachers. The plan also includes scheduled replacement of Chromebooks every four years. In 2022-23, devices at three grade levels (Grades 1, 5, and 9) will be replaced and Chromebooks for kindergarten classes will be added, providing 1:1 Chromebook access to all grades. Online privacy and security are priorities in the budget with multiple layers of filtering and monitoring, hardware upgrades, and software that complies with strict NYS Ed Law 2-d regulations for student data privacy.
Foundation Aid generates revenue
The 2022-23 New York State Budget will provide the District with an expected increase in state aid. The net increase in state assistance to Bethlehem is $1,178,000 for 2022-23, with a $1.5 million increase in Foundation assistance accounting for most of this growth. . The growth in Foundation assistance is partially offset by the expense-based assistance the district expects to receive through the state budget.
The increase in aid reflects the state’s commitment to restore full funding of the Foundation’s aid to school districts after the aid formula was frozen for three consecutive years beginning in 2009 and increased minimally for several years thereafter. Foundation support is state support that can be used to pay general operating expenses. The reinstatement of aid is carried out over three years. The final year of the three-year phase-in is scheduled for 2023-24.
Prop to replace four buses
New York state law requires the district to receive voter approval to borrow money for capital expenditures such as the purchase of buses.
At a cost of $821,000, the 2022-23 bus purchase proposal would pay for four buses. This year’s bus replacement plan includes one 70-passenger electric bus and three 45-passenger diesel buses equipped for wheelchairs. Currently, only small buses can accommodate wheelchairs.
The cost of purchasing new buses is reimbursed by the state, currently at a rate of around 62%. The estimated final cost to local ratepayers would be $311,980.
The proposed bus purchase proposal continues the district’s commitment to reducing carbon emissions. The plan to add an electric bus reflects the current capacity of the district’s charging infrastructure. The district purchased five electric buses this year with the help of state/federal grants. Five charging stations are currently in place, with plans for the addition of 25 charging stations approved as part of Capital Project 2021. The expanded infrastructure is currently in the design phase of the project.
New York State’s recently approved budget requires school districts to have a fully electrified bus fleet by 2035.
School Board Election
On May 17, residents will also elect two school board members. The two incumbents whose terms expire on June 30 have decided not to stand again. The list of candidates for the Board of Education will be announced on April 19. Board petitions are due April 18 and a Meet the Candidates night is tentatively scheduled for May 11.