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Bethlehem gets final 20/20 report

The report is in on Bethlehem heading into the year 2020, and although the report cites many things working in the town's favor, there is also a pending financial crisis that needs immediate attention.

The Bethlehem Town Board listened to a presentation by the co-chairs of the 20/20 Committee on Wednesday, June 24, and accepted a final draft report of 18 months worth of work by the volunteer group.

Former director of economic development and current planning board chairman, George Leveille, gave the presentation, while former town supervisors Ken Ringler and Theresa Egan also fielded questions and gave recommendations on behalf of the committee as its co-chairs.

The committee's report focuses primarily on our capital needs for the town, and "key values," said Leveille as he gave an outline on the report. He said the town needs to be adaptive and evolve with its needs.

"The needs of our community in 2020 will be different than in 1970 or 80 or 90," Leveille said. "What's good in 2002 might not be good in 2012."

The bad news came in the form of financial predictions.

"The town's tax base is primarily residential," he said. "The town's revenues are growing slower than its expenditures."

It is something Supervisor Jack Cunningham has mentioned frequently over the past year, as Bethlehem dips into its reserve funds to balance the budget.

Leveille put an actual date on the crisis.

He said that by the 2014/15 budget the town could be spending more than it is taking in if there aren't any significant changes in economic development.

Ringler echoed this sentiment, but said by acting now, the town could lead other municipalities by example during a time of economic woe and ever-increasing state mandates and expenses.

"There's a key message here: The town is not sustainable on its current path," Ringler then added. "Out of crisis sometimes comes opportunity."

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