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Budget meeting sees much discussed, little resolved

Leaders open dialogue, will meet again before vote

A late-hour budget workshop tonight saw members of the Bethlehem Town Board delving into Supervisor Sam Messina's 2011 executive budget, but after more than two hours of discussion few points of contention had been resolved.

They did, however, broach many of the major and minor disagreements about the plan, and agreed to meet again on Nov. 1 to hopefully settle outstanding issues.

A public hearing on the plan is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 27, and a vote is slated for Nov. 10, though leaders legally have more than a week after that until they must adopt something.

Leaders tackled some fairly substantial topics at Wednesday's meeting: the tax levy, raises for employees, closing the 2010 budget gap and a plan to defer pension contribution costs were among those discussed.

The last point is the only one on which a solid agreement was reached. Officials decided not to take an option to amortize $144,000 in pension costs, putting that expense back into the 2011 budget but also avoiding paying future interest on the deferral.

But on other matters there was a great deal of back and forth, with a promise to examine different scenarios before meeting again.

The roughly $40 million 2011 executive budget calls for a 1 percent cost of living increase for all town employees, as well as the regular step increases generally granted for years of service (at as cost of $114,000 and $220,000, respectively). Employees would also pay 2 percent more of health insurance costs under the plan.

There were various opinions on whether that formula should change. Councilman Kyle Kotary, for one, proposed leaving all those items at 2010 levels with the possibility of reexamining the situation in time.

"I have no problem going back for a half-year [raise]," he said.

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