Bethlehem budget on the table

The tentative budget includes a decrease in receipts of sales and mortgage taxes.

Dawson also objected to having the plan be built into the 2011 budget, when just a few weeks ago Messina indicated he would like to wait until more concrete tax receipt information emerges later this year.

Messina said it's a proper practice to spend savings to close the gap.

"I think prudent fiscal management for the Town of Bethlehem is to make sure we don't drop below the 15 percent level, but stay close to that level," he said.

Disagreement over capital plan

Especially at issue is the inclusion of a 4-year capital spending plan, a measure the town has been working towards for several years. Though an informal schedule has been examined before, this is the first time it's been attached to the budget itself, and it has caused some squabble over exactly what should be considered an expense for the town.

The plan mostly charts out spending on equipment and repairs, some of which would be borrowed on to spread the cost out over the lifetime of the equipment. The capital plan calls for $4 million in spending in 2011, including $1.4 million in borrowing and $2 million in the spending of capital reserves.

Projects include upgrades to the Clapper Road Water Treatment Plant and several new police cars, to name just a few items.

Capital reserves are built and spent separate from the budget as a whole and targeted at specific projects, said Comptroller Suzanne Traylor, and have been in past years, as well. The reserves are funded through interest, transfers and bonding.

"We already have 2 million sitting in a reserve fund. We're just saying, here's what we want to spend it on," Traylor said.

But members of the Town Board said this amounted to an effort to keep these expenses off the budget sheet. Councilman Mark Hennessey compared the tentative budget to a "shell game."

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