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Board hammers out budget proposal

New plan to be put to vote Nov. 10

The Bethlehem Town Board has reworked the 2011 tentative town budget and come to an informal agreement on what it will vote on come Nov. 10.

The board made changes large and small to the tentative budget prepared by Supervisor Sam Messina during two workshop sessions, the last of which took place this evening. Residents will not see much change in the proposed 1.8 percent tax hikea $15,000 surplus the board ended up with won't make a significant dent in the nearly $170,000 levy increase.

But the board did agree to get rid of an increase in field use fees to which some organized sports clubs objected to. That was the final decision in an evening of spending shifts and compromises.

In short, what is to become the 2011 preliminary budget does away with proposed cuts to the salaries of town, planning and zoning board members, as well as for the supervisor; eliminates a plan to defer a portion of pension contribution costs; includes no employee step" pay increases for years on the job; grants employees a 1 percent cost of living increase; makes another $300,000 in cuts across the board on line items from electricity consumption to police car purchases; budgets $10,000 for two unspecified audits; and eliminates $224,000 of borrowing by dipping into the fund balance for some equipment purchases.

It is a bit leaner than the $40 million budget presented by Messina several weeks ago, and that should allow the town to avoid dipping into savings to cover a revenue shortfall this year.

That's partly possible due to some timely new revenues and a steady turnaround in sales tax receipts, said Comptroller Suzanne Traylor.

"Right now, it looks like we're going to be a little better than we expected," she said.

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