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No simple solutions in Bethlehem budget discussion

"It's borrowing from the future, stealing from the past, to pay for a budget that's hundreds of thousands, if not millions, out of balance," he said.

Messina said the budget proposal is a fairly austere one given the conditions.

"I feel that this budget is absolutely balanced in the way that it needed to be," he said. "We've demonstrated the willingness to make some cuts that we had to make and I really appreciate the department heads working with me and once again tightening their belts."

Adding to the issues surrounding the budget process is the uncertainty of the current year's finances. Due to projections that sales tax receipts will be less than anticipated, the town is looking at a roughly $500,000 budget gap, even factoring in efficiencies found during the year that are bringing expenditures in under budget. The gap could run up to $1.5 million in worst-case scenarios.

Messina said the numbers are an incomplete picture and he'll be looking toward concrete numbers that will come in later before taking drastic action.

"What we will have to see is what happens in terms of projected revenue versus actual revenues in the end of September and end of December," he said.

But others on the Town Board have been stressing a plan for this year's finances needs to be implemented now, so the town isn't left taking all of the difference out of reserves.

"We're not going to wake up Dec. 30 and say, we got to find $500,000 under the cushions," said Hennessey.

And whenever the size of the budget comes up, the size of the town's workforce is inevitably a subtopic. A reduction in seasonal personnel and part-time hours has been included in workshop figures, but it remains to be seen if further cuts are ahead.

Town leaders were adamant that with all the cutbacks of recent year, the budget is already a lean one.

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