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Bethlehem proposes a 6.89 percent tax increase

"We're looking at this as an increasing revenue source for the town," he said.

Cunningham also mentioned other budget items like the $5.2 million project to upgrade the town's sewer pump stations; several town-wide studies including farming and agricultural studies, and the Delaware Avenue and Route 9W studies; and three initiatives for inter-municipal cooperation " joining the Albany County Storm Water Coalition, joining the study for the Albany County Health Insurance Consortium, and looking at consolidating 911 call centers around the county.

Kehoe crunched the proposed budget numbers for the board, stating that salary and health benefits constituted 55 percent of the new spending plan.

She said equipment cost were down and the retirement system costs were stable, but that health insurance was up 14 percent and there are large increases in energy spending and petroleum-based products such as asphalt for the highway department.

The highway fund expenditures is proposed to raise 4.7 percent, said Kehoe, but the highway department will keep the current staff level of 56 employees in place despite the increased demand on its services.

The town is also looking at a 4.7 percent increase in expenditures, Kehoe said, and is planning on hiring an additional police officer in either June or July, but added that the bringing the police force up to 44 members had little impact on the budget.

The sewer tax rate is being proposed to increase 4 percent, or $1.18, and there will be a quarterly $4.50 flat fee for the water and sewer districts.

The town board scheduled a public hearing on the proposed budget for Wednesday, Oct. 22, at 6 p.m.. Cunningham said the proposed budget would be availiable to the public at the town clerks office in Town Hall or on the town's Web site by Monday, Sept. 29, at the latest.

For more updates on this story visit www.spotlightnews.com or read the Wednesday, Oct. 1, print edition of The Spotlight.

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