Bethlehem budget on the table

Messina called the budget a prudent response to tough times, and one that sets the town up for future stability.

"This budget did what it needed to do for 2010, 2011, and get us reasonably prepared for where we need to be in 2012," he said.

Budget panned by Town Board

But other members of the Town Board contended the exact opposite is true, saying many of the practices in the budget would put the town on its heels should another tough year come.

"The fact of the matter is this budget spends more, taxes mores, borrows more and hides more," Councilman Kyle Kotary said. "We're spending a lot more than we did in '09, we're spending more than we did in '010...that just causes me great concern as we're going forward."

Members criticized an amortization of pension contributions, a new measure allowed by the state to offset the massive pension contribution costs municipalities are encountering (Bethlehem will see its pension costs rise 39 percent in 2011). That $144,000 sum would be deferred from next year's payment and spread out over the next 10 years, plus interest.

While there is no planned use of town savings in 2011, the budget does make use of interfund transfers, where the four funds essentially charge one another for services. This would smooth out projected deficits in some funds and surpluses in others.

The budget presentation also included a proposal to address the town's anticipated 2010 revenue shortfall through the use of savings. The gap is expected to run nearly $1 million.

Councilwoman Joann Dawson expressed reservations about the plan, noting it would bring saving levels close to 15 percent of the entire budget. The 2011 budget doesn't call for them to be used at all, a point she characterized as overly optimistic.

"How could we possibly predict that next year's going to be better than this year?" Dawson said.

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