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Bethlehem floats a 6.89% tax hike

The Town of Bethlehem unveiled its $38.67 million spending plan for next year during its Wednesday, Sept. 24, meeting.

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.

In opening the presentation, Cunningham said 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.

Cunningham said many of the town's employees work long hours and could make much more money in the private sector, but are instead "committed to the community" they live and work in.

Some of the revenue projections were promising, however, Cunningham said, especially considering the economy and the fact that Bethlehem is "not exempt" from the economic woes nationwide.

In particular, Cunningham pointed to the now town-operated Colonial Acres Golf Course, which has already netted a profit of $20,000 even though the season isn't over and the golf course was only projected to break even in the first year owned by the town.

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