Arguing that the town still offers among the lowest taxes in the county, Bethlehem officials are set to vote on the proposed 2009 budget and a 6.89 percent tax rate increase.
The town board unveiled its $38.67 million spending plan for next year during its Wednesday, Sept. 24, meeting. The proposed budget is the first item on the agenda for the Wednesday, Nov. 12, meeting at Town Hall, which begins at 6 p.m.
The town board is expected to pass the budget.
The proposed budget constitutes a 2.8 percent spending increase over this year's $37.63 million budget and an overall 6.89 tax rate increase for the town's combined general fund, highway department tax rate, and water and sewer district tax rates.
The proposed tax rate increase would result in a $17.45 increase per $100,000 of assessed value. Supervisor Jack Cunningham said the average home assessment in Bethlehem is $285,000.
According to Judi Kehoe, the town's outgoing comptroller who has taken a job with the Bethlehem Central School District, the tax levy increase is being proposed at 6.89 percent. However, the 6.89 percent increase combined with the expanded assessment base will result in an increase of 7.3 percent in revenues to the town from property taxes, she said.
Cunningham has said on several occasions that balancing this year's budget was difficult on many different levels, citing a bad economy, poor consumer confidence, and the challenge of balancing "what was desirable and what was absolutely necessary" for the town.
The supervisor said that a large chunk of the budget was going to pay for town employees and their benefits, but that "our employees in Town Hall are our biggest assets" and that the town has to be as committed to them as they are committed to the town.
At the proposed budget's public hearing on Wednesday, Oct. 22, Cunningham told residents that not all tax increases are equal.