A handful of residents attended the Wednesday, Oct. 24, public hearing on Bethlehem's 2008 tentative budget, which turned out to be more of a question-and-answer session between town board members and the public.
The $37.6 million dollar budget raises taxes 2.5 percent while increasing spending by 4 percent.
Selkirk property owner William Stewart said taxes are rising, and he fears losing his home to increasing town taxes.
What are you going to do to keep taxes from going up? asked Stewart. "Are you going to cut spending?"
Supervisor Jack Cunningham said he is encouraging commercial economic growth to ease the taxpayer burden. That growth includes more development along the town's Route 9W corridor, along with the opening of Vista Technology Park in Slingerlands.
"We do have a direction, and we are working towards it," Cunningham said.
Resident Robert Jasinski cautioned board members on the potential overspending of general fund reserves. The 2008 budget proposes to use $2.5 million of unappropriated reserves from four different town funds, including the general fund.
"I don't like to see the general fund go down," said Jasinski.
Republican candidate for town board Art Sheuermann said the No. 1 concern he has heard from residents is the increase in overall town expenditures and its relationship to rising taxes.
"You need to make decisions as a town board to cut spending to keep the tax rate low," said Scheuermann.
Cunningham said the combination of flat revenues and spending increases in certain areas are what caused the tax rate increase. He pointed the cost of supplies like pool chemicals, blacktop and an 8 percent hike in health insurance spending as areas that affected the 2008 budget.
"This year's budget has been a challenge," said Cunningham. "Although our expenses continue to increase, our revenue streams are flat."
Norman Morand said the town board approved raises for employees as costs for seniors continue to rise.