Bethlehem adopts $40.17M budget

Messina singled out this element for disagreement.

"I think we could have been able to keep that with some efficiencies," he said of the cost of living increase.

In addition, pavilion work at the Colonial Acres Golf Course will be deferred at a savings of $50,000. The construction of a new maintenance garage there will be covered by the Parks and Recreation Department's Set Aside Fund, saving the general budget $40,000.

Cunningham said that it has been a struggle to keep the budget down in the face of rising costs. In 2010, the cost of pension contributions will rise 34 percent, the cost of health insurance will rise 4 percent and the cost of Medicare contributions will rise 27 percent, he said.

"We have not control over those increases," he said.

Cunningham also argued that in many areas spending would be decreasing when big-ticket equipment and capital improvement leases and bonding are factored out. The Highway Department is scheduled to purchase $360,000 worth of equipment, the Water Department $725,000 worth of upgrades and the Sewer Department $395,000.

He also mentioned that the town's recent credit rating upgrade to AA would be a boon for the town, especially as it prepares to issue $8.1 million in general obligation bonds later this month. Getting better interest rates on these bonds would save the town between $240,000 and $330,000 over the life of the bonds, which is more than the 2010 increase to the tax levy.

"We're actually getting paid back over the long term on this."

Messina took issue with that argument, noting that those savings will be realized over the life of the bonds, not all in 2010. He said he figures taxpayers will only save about $13,000 in 2010 alone.

"I think that is absolutely terrific," he said of the new credit rating. "I think our comparisons are wrongthere's no net savings to taxpayers."

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