Board OKs tax increase

The town of Bethlehem 2007 budget that carries a 2.79 percent tax levy increase was approved by a vote of 4 to 1 at the Wednesday, Nov. 8, meeting of the town board.

Only newly elected 108th District Assemblyman Tim Gordon voted against the plan. Gordon, who will be leaving the town board at the end of the year, urged his colleagues to vote no on any tax increase as they studied the proposed $36.5 million budget.

I am not changing my tune on that just because yesterday was Election Day, said Gordon, a member of the Independence Party. "Property taxpayers are getting hammered and we have an opportunity with our significant fund balance to have no taxes."

The only changes made before the final vote were to return savings in the town's health insurance and HAVA (Help America Vote Act) costs to the reserves, allowing for a reduction of the overall general fund deficit.

"This was an arduous, tenacious process, but I think we have a good budget," said Supervisor Theresa Egan.

Board member Kyle Kotary said the board's duty is to provide the best service and also be fiscally responsible to the taxpayer.

"The changes we are talking about are a couple hundred thousand dollars in a $36 million budget," Kotary said.

The board appeared at times during budget workshops to disagree on what the final tax levy for the town should be. Board member Dan Plummer said it's time to get three votes for the document, as he voted in favor of the less than 3 percent tax increase.

"Anytime you can keep a budget below 3 percent you are working extremely hard to make it very fair to the taxpayers," Plummer said.

Sam Messina was the only member to initially request a larger tax increase and use any extra money for a host of much needed projects. When it came time to vote, Messina said he would vote for the 2.79 percent tax levy increase if the board begins to fund necessary projects next year that are on a long waiting list.

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