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A new addition to Bethlehem Area School District tax bills: What you get for your money

June marks the end of the school year, graduation time and the unofficial start of Complain About Your School Tax Bill season.This year, Bethlehem Area School District has an answer for outraged senior citizens and others who protest that annual increases in property taxes are pricing them out of their homes. Some complain they shouldn’t have to pay those levies because they have no children in school. At a school board committee meeting Monday, Superintendent Joseph Roy held up a card that gives information on how many students Bethlehem Area educates and some highlights of the education the district provides. Copies of that card are going to go out with property tax bills, Roy said. Bethlehem Area School District plans to send a card that gives information on how many students Bethlehem Area educates and some highlights of the education the district provides with each of the local property tax bills in 2019. (Margie Peterson / Special to The Morning Call/)Following the meeting, Roy said that when residents get a tax bill with no context, “we lose the bigger picture of citizens of a community. As citizens of a community we all invest in the future of the community. That’s what public education is all about. So this is my way of reminding people when they get that tax bill, here’s some of things it goes for.“We want to take it from the individual view to the community responsibility,” Roy said.On one side, the card says: “Thanks to your tax dollars, BASD educates 13,700 students across our 22 schools. Our students benefit from your support and, in return, they create our future as parents, employers, employees, civic and business leaders.”It thanks the taxpayer “for your part in building Bethlehem and investing in our future.”On the flip side, there are snippets on the district’s Project Lead The Way pre-engineering program and how it prepares students for 21st century jobs, and on Bethlehem’s nationally recognized reading program. It mentions that the district employs more than 1,900 “dedicated educators and staff members.”“Over 1,100 students graduated from Liberty and Freedom high schools last year,” the card says. “They went on to enroll in prestigious colleges and universities, pursue meaningful careers, and become active community members.”The tax bills with the cards go out July 1, Roy said. According to the district, it bought 40,000 cards at a cost of $2,025.The bills might be met with less grousing than usual this year, but not just because of the card. For the first time in a generation, the district expects to pass a budget next Monday with no tax increase. The proposed $289.9 million budget for the 2019-20 school year has a $1.6 million deficit, but administrators say that can be closed by dipping into the fund balance instead of raising taxes. Bethlehem Area estimates that it has been about 25 years since a budget passed without a tax increase.Margie Peterson is a freelance writer for The Morning Call.
Source: Morningcall

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