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The Steuben Courier Advocate
  • Bath schools plan security upgrades

  • A plan to spend $1.8 million on safety and security improvements is one of several propositions the Bath Central School District will put before voters May 21 along with its $33.2 million budget for the 2013-14 school year.

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  • A plan to spend $1.8 million on safety and security improvements is one of several propositions the Bath Central School District will put before voters May 21 along with its $33.2 million budget for the 2013-14 school year.
    If voters approve, the district will tighten security at building entrances, enhance the surveillance system, and change the locks on classroom doors so teachers can lock them from the inside in the event of an intruder, Superintendent Joe Rumsey said.
    While improving school security has been a concern for many years, the Newtown, Conn., school shooting spurred the Bath school district to take a closer look, Rumsey said. The district had Bath police and fire officials, along with New York State Police, the Steuben County Sheriff's Office, the Steuben County Office of Emergency Management and Hunt Engineers review security procedures.
    "It wasn't a direct result of Newtown, but it certainly accelerated the process," Rumsey said.
    The $1.8 million capital project would be largely funded by a state grant, and would also pull from a reserve fund for capital projects, so there will be no tax increase for local residents tied to the project. Also wrapped into the project will be a replacement of the playground at the Vernon E. Wightman School, which has safety issues, and some other needed maintenance, such as new doors and windows.
    Also May 21, the district will ask voters to approve the purchase of two new school buses and an SUV at a cost of no more than $262,000. It is also asking voters to approve a change to an at-large voting system for school board elections. That means candidates no longer have to specify which open seat they're running for.
    If, for example, there are five candidates running for two open seats, the top two vote-getters would win the seats. In the past, there were sometimes multiple good candidates running for the same seat, and nobody running for another seat, leaving it unfilled, Rumsey said.
    As for the budget itself, the $33.2 million spending plan includes a spending increase of 1.4 percent, mostly due to increasing costs of mandated special education programs, as well as rising employee health insurance costs. The district will eliminate the equivalent of 2.5 full-time positions by not replacing retirements. The district will also share services with neighboring schools in the area of special education to cut costs, Rumsey said.
    The tax levy increase will be 2 percent, which is within the district's limit under the state property tax cap, so the budget will need a simple majority to pass. Bath could have raised the levy around 7 percent and still stayed within the cap, because it has a lot of exemptions under the state formula used in determining the cap, Rumsey said.
    But the school board recognizes that "these are difficult times for many residents in our community," said Joseph Baroody, school board president, who added that the board "remains committed to offering quality educational programming without increasing the tax burden."
    Page 2 of 2 - The school board will give a presentation on the budget and take comments at a public hearing at 7 p.m. May 7 at the school auditorium. The polls will be open from noon-8 p.m. May 21 at the district offices.

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