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Town Board to talk budget...again

The Bethlehem Town Board will convene Wednesday, Oct. 20, for a special meeting to discuss the 2011 budget and potentially reconcile disagreements over several key points in Supervisor Sam Messina's tentative plan.

The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. and will be open to the public. It was scheduled in recent days after it became clear Messina and board members are fundamentally at odds when it comes to both details and the big picture.

Chief among concerns is the actual amount of expenses next year ($40 million or $42 million including capital reserve spending), the amount of money the town will be borrowing, the inclusion of a capital plan and use of savings to cover a projected budget gap this year.

I hope that amendments to the budget I proposed that can be supported by the majority of the board will come out of the meeting, said Messina.

Councilman Kyle Kotary said it's important to air these disagreements so the public has a version of the budget to offer comment on at an Oct. 27 public hearing and the scheduled budget adoption two weeks later.

"We know we have huge disagreements, we know we're coming down to the wire," he said. "We have three weeks and a public meeting to figure it out, so we don't show up on Nov. 10 and have complete chaos."

Board members attended earlier this year a series of meetings aimed at going over in detail every aspect of the budget, but at the end of those conversations it was to the supervisor to prepare the tentative budget.

That proposal calls for a 1.8 percent increase in the tax levy, interfund transfers (shifting money from one of the town's four funds to another to smooth out the projected tax increases) and a 1-percent raise for town employees. It's likely all will see discussion come Wednesday.

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