October 16, 2009    
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School adapts to monetary, procedural changes
by Colleen Snow, staff writer

The current 2009 school year has begun differently from previous years due to the major BASD budget cuts that have affected LHS. In addition, the regular homeroom period has been taken away, and the school day is an extra five minutes longer. These changes have introduced new hardships for the faculty and students to overcome this school year.

Principal JoAnn Durante believes that although the budget cuts were difficult, the school board did a very good job with them, and as a school, LHS is lucky.

“No one wants to take programs away from the kids, but we have quality teachers and administration that provide a good education for the students. It’s hard, but it could be worse. The entire state is hurting right now with some school districts more [negatively impacted] than others. The state hasn’t pumped out money to school districts so our money is only coming from taxes,” said Durante.

According to the BASD president Loretta Leeson, the budget cuts became an issue in the 2006-2007 school year when the school administration overspent the school budget by seven million dollars without telling the Board. The Board found out about the deficit in January of 2008 when an independent auditor informed them. As a result, the irresponsible spending went through the Board’s fund balance, which serves as a savings account for unexpected expenses.

A downturn in the financial market and the recession both caused the deficit of the unexpected expenses to increase even more. The Board started last year with negative three million dollars, which could have been negative twenty million dollars if strong financial steps had not been taken.
In response to the deficit, the Board took many measures to tighten the district’s budget in the spring of 2008.

“The Board created five interactive budget workshops. Along with the Administration we went through the budget line by line and reduced the 2008-2009 budget by $6.8 million. We also established a goal for the Administration to monitor and continue to reduce expenses by another $1.9 million throughout the year. The Administration was successful in reduing those expenses,” said Leeson.

For this past year, the budget was based on the tax increase, a reasonable state budget, and stimulus money. However, at the beginning of August, the Board was told not to depend on the stimulus money. Therefore, both the Administration and the Board had to make several cuts before schools started in an effort to minimize disruptions at the beginning of the school year. The Career Academy is among the many programs that were closed; students going to the Academy had to return to their home schools. Formerly at the Career Academy was Mrs. Robledo-Shorey, who is now LHS’ new Assistant Principal.

“These last cuts were very painful for all of us. Please remember that Bethlehem has more special programs than any other school district around and we continue to have many outstanding special programs,” said Leeson. [continued]

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