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Extra Bethlehem budget workshop scheduled

Taxes and borrowing continues to rule the debate

— The Bethlehem Town Board will be meeting in another budget workshop tomorrow night.

The meeting was not planned as one of the set of discussions the board has been having on the 2012 budget. With a public hearing scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 26, though, it was decided at a Monday, Oct. 17, workshop that more time was needed.

Members of the Town Board and Supervisor Sam Messina are continuing to grind out a budget plan, and issues including whether a tax increase should be part of the budget and what the thown’s policy on borrowing should be continue to rule the debate.

After a workshop last week when Town Board members made it clear they'd like to see the budget pared back, especially in the area of borrowing, town staff took recommendations and brought a revised proposal to the board.

This one cuts out a few initiatives, not the least of which was a $1.4 million bond to secure a new Department of Public Works garage. Another $350,000 of borrowing was shifted over to capital reserves and several vehicle purchases were sent from borrowing to the regular operations budget.

In addition, the overtime budget for several departments was trimmed, including in the Police Department and Highway Department, which use the most overtime.

Board members were still talking cuts on Monday, though, and when the subject was broached, a few department heads bristled, saying they’ve cut to the bone over the past few years.

“Every bit of overtime that is used is scrutinized,” Police Chief Louis Corsi said. “There are some things in that overtime line that are contractual, that I have no control over.”

He added that with a scaled-down workforce, the department sometimes has no choice but to turn to overtime.

Other departmnet heads bemoaned the skyrocketing cost of pension contributions and healthcare, and said employees are stretched to the brink.

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