The Town of Bethlehem adopted a 2010 budget Tuesday, Nov. 10, that weighs in at about $40.17 million and includes a tax rate increase of 2 percent, bringing the town tax rate to $2.77 per $1,000 of assessed property value.
The Town Board adopted the budget in a split vote, with Councilman Sam Messina dissenting.
Messina, who is leading Supervisor Jack Cunningham in the race for town supervisor before absentee ballots are counted, said during the recent campaign season that he would like to pass a budget without a tax hike, and would obtain that goal by seeking out efficiencies in every department and program.
I have voted for tax increases in the past, I may in the future. This year, I didn't think we needed to do that, he said.
The other four Town Board members disagreed, saying that the increase is modest ($16.20 for the owner of home assessed at $300,000) and important to maintain vital services. The town will also tap the fund balance for nearly $1.7 million.
"The 2 percent increase was the right thing to do in August, it was the right thing to do two weeks ago and it's the right thing to do today," said Councilman Kyle Kotary.
"This budget protects our reserves to the extent we can at this point while allowing us to keep the services the residents of this town enjoy," said Councilwoman Joann Dawson.
"These are flat times, you need a budget that reflects the state of the economy," said Councilman Mark Hennessey, who has said he is pleased the budget will play down the town's reliance on fund reserves. "This us a sound budget, it will get us through to next year."
Several significant changes were made from the budget unveiled in September. A cost of living increase for town employees was decreased to 1 percent from 1.5 percent for a savings of $21,316. Elected and appointed officials will still not see a pay increase.