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Bermudian leans toward no new taxes in 2021-22 budget

Bermudian Springs School District board members seemed to lean towards a zero-percent tax increase, though no vote was taken during the caucus meeting.

Superintendent Shane Hotchkiss presented the board with five different scenarios (with potential increases set at 0%, 1.025%, 2.05%, 2.9%, and the Act One Index of 4.10%.)

Several board members expressed support for a zero-percent increase due to increased costs for residents due to the pandemic. They wanted to use fund balance to close the gap.

Others felt that some increase was necessary to avoid projected large deficits in the following years.

“I see it,” board member Rich Sterner said. “I get it, I get it. But if we do that now– and I understand why you would and I know it’s been hard– but two or three years from now, my fear is that we won’t be talking about what index we’re going to reach, we’ll be talking about what teachers we’re going to furlough and what programs we’re going to cut from our students. And yeah, taxation and money is very important, and putting food on the table is very important. But the future of not just Bermudian Springs School District but the future of our county, the future of our state, is at stake in some of this. And a top-quality education, which we have built here at Bermudian Springs, is also at stake. I think we have to look forward and see that, as well.”

As it became clear that the board was leaning towards adding no increase, Hotchkiss said the district will make it work if the board votes that way.

“We will look at every single line and the most important thing for me is to not impact the students sitting in the classroom,” Hotchkiss said. “That’s the goal. So whatever that looks like, however creative we can be, that’s our number one charge..… here’s the reality. I’m an optimist. We are going to work our tail off like we have done every single year, by the way, to make things work to the best of our ability.”

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Imari Scarbrough is a freelance journalist. She was a staff newspaper reporter for five years before becoming a freelancer in 2017. She has written on crime, environmental issues, severe weather events, local and regional government and more.

You can visit her website at ImariJournal.com.

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