Membership dues hot topic at Bethlehem org meeting

Town to reexamine what it pays for trade and professional group memberships

The Bethlehem Town Board tackled its yearly organizational tasks Wednesday, Jan. 12, making the dozens of votes needed to officially staff town offices and set policies.

Though most of the items were unremarkable, the Town Board did table a motion on authorizing the payment of thousands of dollars in membership dues to various trade and professional organizations. Several board members said the town should reexamine what it gets out of the dozens of memberships it pays for town employees.

I have some concerns about the value we get, including with the Association of Towns, said Councilman Kyle Kotary. "Although it's not a lot of money, it adds up and it's symbolic."

The board did approve spending $1,650 in dues for membership in that organization, with Councilman Mark Hennessey casting a dissenting vote. He later said the possibility of a property tax cap being passed is something the town should seriously consider now, and the dues could be a way to "trim the sails." He also questioned whether the Association of Towns membership is a good investment.

"We have a variety of expenses in front of us," he said. "We've got to start doing more with less."

The board also voted to send John Flanigan as the town's representative to the annual meeting of the Association of Towns, but the former president of that group will make the trip at his own expense.

There were over $13,000 in dues included in the 2011 budget, not including the approved Association of Towns fee, and they stretched over nearly every town department. Some were for as little as $15 (to the Albany-Schenectady County Assessors Association) while others went into the hundreds ($405 in dues to the American Public Works Association).

Some Town Board members and members of the public wondered if providing such dues is a good use of money..

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