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Bethlehem loses $1 million in revenue

Although the first six months of Bethlehem's 2009 budget has been a rough one, town officials say it wasn't unexpected, and the worst may have passed.

However, nothing is for certain as sales and mortgage taxes continue to slump and have contributed to the town losing $1.09 million in revenues this year to date. Bethlehem comptroller Suzanne Traylor presented a financial update to the Town Board during its Wednesday, Aug. 12, meeting.

In order to adjust for the drop in revenues, the Town Board unanimously voted after the presentation to decrease town expenditures by $968,050 and use $122,427 of the fund balance to make up the difference.

Borrowing an observation made by Councilman Mark Hennessey at a previous meeting about using the fund balance as a rainy day fund, Traylor said, "Well it is certainly raining now."

She told the board the town has been bracing for the financial impact.

"You can tell right now our revenue is significantly lower than in 2008," she said. "Which is no surprise to any of us we knew this was coming."

Traylor said Bethlehem is simply behind where it used to be.

"Halfway through the year, we are about 6.6 percent less than we were at in 2008," said Traylor. "What does that mean in term of budget? We're 9 percent off of the budget."

It is not all bad news, according to Supervisor Jack Cunningham, who said at the meeting that after conferring with state officials and reviewing national financial trends, many experts are predicting the American economy is on the rebound.

Traylor added to the good news by stating, "We're right where we expect to be with the highway budget, and that's really a tribute to [highway superintendent] Gregg Sagendorph and his management."

She also said there were positive numbers coming from the water and sewer departments despite having a cool, rainy summer up until recently, and the town saw savings in fuel costs after basing the budget on last year's $4 a gallon prices.

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