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Bethlehem town board OK's budget

Despite a handful of pleas to take another look, the Bethlehem Town Board approved its 2009 budget.

The board unanimously approved the proposed 6.89 percent town tax increase on Wednesday, Nov. 12, after a group of residents asked the town to table the budget and propose a zero percent tax increase in the face of a possible national recession.

Residents said more cuts could be made before the budget's passing and that the town should be willing to make the same financial sacrifices every taxpayer is now facing in a worsening economy.

Supervisor Jack Cunningham, along with fellow board members, said the budget process wasn't taken lightly and that Bethlehem needs to look out for its financial future.

Putting off tough financial decisions and investments until it's too late is not an option, the board explained. However, a group of residents, including the town's Republican Chairwoman Melody Burns, disagreed and spoke against the proposed tax hike.

As a taxpayer, I am asking you to not pass the budget as proposed, but to take it back and make it a zero tax increase budget, Burns told the board. "I know you have until the 20th of November to do that, so you have eight days to review the budget and bring it back to zero."

Norman Morand, a vocal resident and former Republican committeeman, said town cars should be the first item eliminated from the budget.

"I don't like the budget. I just recently filed a FOIL request; I want to know who has town-owned cars for their personal use. I don't think it's necessary. I don't think Jack Cunningham or the head of the department of public works or anybody deserves a town car," Morand said. "I don't have a town car. When I worked for GE they didn't give me a car -- I used my own. Take those items out of the budget."

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