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Board wants less borrowing, less taxes

Bethlehem leaders to look at specific cuts at next meeting

— Bethlehem leaders at a recent workshop feasted on a triple-layered cake of budgeting issues, considering borrowing, services and taxes.

The Thursday, Oct. 13, workshop saw members of the Town Board laying out their philosophical views of the town’s 2012 budget, ending with a promise to hone in on specific changes they’d like to see and getting into those details during another workshop on Monday, Oct. 17.

Supervisor Sam Messina released his tentative budget earlier this month. Probably the clearest rift between his vision and board members’ priorities is the tentative budget’s 1.27 percent property tax hike. Messina said this is a responsible increase, and added that in a recent review with Moody’s Financial Services, it was said an avoidance of levying taxes could impact the town’s AA credit rating.

“Some influx of revenue … was on the mind of Moody’s,” Messina said.

But board members said a property tax hike should be held to a limited amount. Councilman Kyle Kotary said he’d be aiming to have a flat tax rate; Councilman Mark Hennessey said the town should aim to lower taxes.

“I am not in favor of a tax increase right now,” Kotary said. “The worst time to increase taxes is during a recession.”

The proposed hike is below the state’s property tax cap. Under the state’s formula, Bethlehem could increase taxes by up to 4.11 percent without having to override the cap.

The town’s bond rating is still holding at AA — a rather good level for a municipality—and that in part means the town could borrow money at very favorable rates.

There is $5.9 million worth of borrowing in the tentative budget. Another roughly $1.1 million would be spent out of capital reserves. Those figures are in addition to $38.6 million worth of straight appropriations.

It was clear board members have trepidations about taking on debt.

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Comments

RichardReevesEllington 2 years, 10 months ago

An interesting conversation between the Board members with the citizens of Bethlehem outside of the loop, at a time they should have a voice. The Board discussion sounded like an internal board argument, based on hard political positions.

For example, no matter what type of budget that emerges, services will have to be reduced. The question is what should they be and here is where the citizens should have an active voice. Certainly, reduced services need to cover all of the Town's constituencies: youth services, family services, and services for the older segment of the population. Each of these should have some say in what they are willing to give up. This can be done in town meetings, town board meetings, and on line questionnaires.

Such an approach would require a published list of current services and costs, stated in actual dollars and percent of the budget.

If elected supervisor, This is where I would start. Collect data from Bethlehem citizens, and then base the budget development on these learnings;

For more,l please see my website: www.bethlehemsupervisor.com

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