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Town's finances meet estimate

Seven months into the 2006 fiscal year, the town of Bethlehem finances are meeting estimated budget projections.

Town Comptroller Judith Kehoe said water and sewer revenues are in line with expenditures. The general fund saw a deficit of $725,000 last year and will see another deficit this year of $800,000. However, Kehoe said a healthy $5 million balance in the general fund will be used to offset that deficit.

Town sales tax for the second quarter of 2006 totaled $2.33 million, just under sales tax revenue for the first quarter of the year. Sales tax figures overall in 2005 totaled $9.26 million and may increase this year.

In a normal year, I would expect to see a $200,000 increase in overall sales tax, but this year I am unsure due to the cap on gasoline prices, said Kehoe.

Albany County's 4 percent collection of sales tax is split 60-40 with the municipalities, with the county keeping 60 percent of the total sales tax revenue and the towns receiving the remaining 40 percent. Kehoe said Bethlehem usually sees about 10 percent of the total county allocation of sales tax revenue each year. Mortgage tax receipts for the town are also leveling off in 2006.

"I expect we will be coming in at $1 million to $1.2 million, which is below what we had budgeted," Kehoe said.

A shortfall is expected in a line item cost for election expenses. Last year the town spent $70,000 in election expenses. New budget estimates have this year's cost to be $276,000. The extra election expense is due to the new Help America Vote Act.

Another town contract with Albany County for Advanced Life Support services is expected to increase from the current cost of $370,000 a year.

"Bethlehem represents 60 percent of the call volume," said Supervisor Theresa Egan, adding, "a new bill will be submitted at increases of $200,000 from the prior year."

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