Editorial: BC budget one to watch

This past week saw a wrinkle in what has become the traditional narrative of school budget season in the Bethlehem Central School District, and residents residing therein (and districts nearby) should take notice.

What’s most important about the proposal to most folks is the district is asking for a nearly 4 percent increase in the property tax levy, which is a full percent higher than allowed by the state tax cap.

The merits of the tax cap can be discussed at length, but it has undeniably changed the conversation at budget time in most school districts. This year, schools in the area are tending to start their budgeting by setting taxes to that maximum level then making whatever cuts or withdrawals from savings necessary to bring the numbers in line. BC is bucking that trend, but what remains to be seen is whether doing so will excite the ire or the understanding of taxpayers.

According to the district, the owner of a home assessed at $100,000 would see an $81 tax increase under next year’s budget, which doesn’t sound like a tall price to pay when considering the plan would keep a lot of people in their jobs and a lot of programs from the chopping block. It’s pretty close to a trip to the pumps these days.

However, what school districts rarely advertise in their press releases is the existing tax rate. Bethlehem Central didn’t, so we looked it up and found the owner of a $100,000 house is paying just over $2,000 in school taxes, whether that home is in New Scotland or Bethlehem. That’s 2 percent of the value of a home going to the school district every year.

That bill is more or less in line with what taxpayers in the Guilderland School District pay (depending on your town of residence) and generally a bit higher than what’s owed by residents in the Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk School District, so it’s not like BC exists in some sort of tax bubble.

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