The 2008 Bethlehem town budget presented at the Wednesday, Sept. 26, town board meeting by Supervisor Jack Cunningham features a 2.5 percent tax increase. A public hearing on the budget, which was put together over a series of workshops starting in August, will be held Oct. 24.
We will continue efforts to minimize tax increases while ensuring high-quality services, and we believe the 2008 budget best meets that goal, said Cunningham.
Fund balances had to be tapped into in order to keep the tax increase at 2.5 percent. The town appropriated $875,000 out of the general fund; $307,000 out of the highway fund; $974,000 out of the water fund; and $397,000 of fund balance from the sewer fund for a total of $2.55 million. Each of the four unreserved fund balances for the town remain at levels of between 15 and 20 percent.
One of the reasons so much fund balance was used, according to Comptroller Judith Kehoe, was the overall economy.
"Unfortunately, the local economy cannot be characterized as strong for the moment," said Kehoe.
The fund balance deficit in 2007 is estimated at $600,000, leaving a total of $3.26 million. Revenue growth for next year is projected at only 2 percent.
"I am looking for good news in the economy and haven't found a lot lately," Kehoe said.
In prior years, the town supervisor would present a budget, and the town board would then schedule a series of budget workshops. A change this year under Cunningham was that budget workshops were held in August with department heads and the town board involved.
"We all participated in the budget development process," said town board member Joann Dawson. "Now we will wait and hear the town residents on what they feel strongly about."
The Wednesday, Oct. 24, public hearing on the budget is scheduled for 6:15 p.m. at town hall. If there are no other meetings or changes made, the budget is then expected to be adopted at the town's Nov. 14 meeting.