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Board wants less borrowing, less taxes

Bethlehem leaders to look at specific cuts at next meeting

— “We didn’t invest in infrastructure for dozens of years. It’s nobody here’s fault, but it’s our problem,” Hennessey said. “We understand what the needs are, we just have to find out the right way to fund it.”

Councilwoman Joann Dawson said the town is still in the process of assessing damage from Tropical Storm Irene.

“To sit around the table and say, ‘yeah, we’ll deal with that later,’ is having our head in the sand on that issue,” she said. “We can’t pretend this budget is just going to go on its merry way with that elephant in the room.”

Comptroller Suzanne Traylor said the town carries relatively little debt (about $22 million worth right now), and that this is the most effective way to tackle the town’s “code red” infrastructure needs without dealing a short-term blow to taxpayers. Bonding purchases that will last for many years is considered a good accounting practice, she said.

“We’ve never had to do this before, but we’re faced with a lot of decisions,” Traylor said.

There are more than 20 projects or purchases for which borrowing is proposed as a financing mechanism. The big ones are a sewer pump station rehabilitation for $1.5 million, a new Department of Public Works field operations garage for $700,000 and upgrades to the Clapper Road Water Treatment Plant for $500,000. It’s also proposed to continue borrowing for highway paving ($760,000 worth in 2012), a practice that was only started recently.

To cut the tax hike, the town would of course have to find other revenues or reduce expenditures. There are already several austerity measures built into the budget, including taking five unfilled positions out and increasing co-pays on employee health insurance. $200,000 worth of “limited merit increases and incentives” for worthy employees were recently built into the budget after a no-raise scenario was originally floated.

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Comments

RichardReevesEllington 3 years 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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