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Membership dues tabled again

The Bethlehem Town Board has once again held off on approving a collection of membership dues included in the 2011 budget for town staff and departments.

The board had tabled the item during its organizational meeting and on Wednesday, Jan. 26, rejected a new list put forth by Supervisor Sam Messina that removed several of the fees to professional and governmental organizations.

Councilwoman Joann Dawson said she realizes many of the memberships are vital to the town's operation, but questioned if there still remains some fat to be cut.

Maybe in a way it's a misnomer to put all of these in one list, she said, acknowledging there were many items she does support. "On the other hand, there were others that were mostly in the area of information."

Supervisor Sam Messina emphasized the list of dues has been reduced in the past, and was also pared down for the 2011 budget. He put to the board further cuts of about $2,100 on Wednesday, saying the new fees "enable our folks to be where they need to and to frankly develop the connections that will help Bethlehem."

"The ability of the work [town staff] can do for us is enhanced by these membership fees," he added.

Councilman Mark Hennessey reiterated statements he made at the organizational meeting calling for a conservative fiscal position. He reminded the board and audience the town had faced a seven-figure deficit in 2010.

"We just currently have a lot of expenses we can't afford," he said.

The new list tabled on Wednesday totaled $14,763, of which about $1,200 has already been paid. The entire town budget for 2011 weighs in at about $40 million.

35 dues and fees were taken out of the newest proposal, some of which employees agreed to pay for themselves. These were for the most part in lesser amounts " nearly all of the more costly items reaching into the hundreds and thousands of dollars were included.

Councilman Kyle Kotary said though he had concerns about town spending, he would be willing to approve the presented list and move on from the issue. Without a third vote available, however, he voted along with the rest of the Town Board to table the list.""

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