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Extra Bethlehem budget workshop scheduled

Taxes and borrowing continues to rule the debate

— Highway Superintendent Gregg Sagendorph said his department would try to meet a 10 percent reduction in overtime, but for his force that depends a lot on the weather. He said he’s going into the winter season shorthanded, as well, and can’t obtain reasonably-priced labor because it must be hired at prevailing wages (which Sagendorph refered to as the “elephant in the room”).

Several board members said they’d like to see the tax hike fall to zero, or even see taxes down, while Messina maintained a 1.27 percent increase is responsible in this environment. Again, there was talk of the possibility of the town’s bond rating taking a hit if it doesn’t levy taxes.

Councilman Mark Hennessey took issue with that argument, saying it shouldn’t play into the decision.

“It sounds like if you don’t raise tassxes, you’re over a barrell, and I don’t think that’s true and I don’t think that’s fair,” he said.

Deep into the meeting, Councilman Kyle Kotary laid out a plan to wean the town off of borrowing for road paving, a practice that was started in recent years.

By raising highway taxes every year, he said, the department could get back to paying for the paving out of its operational budget. There is $700,000 worth of paving in the proposed 2012 budget (down from $760,000). Kotary described this solution as a reversal of past policy, as the highway tax was cut when paving went to being bonded.

He also noted that in addition to the tax hike, the proposed budget contains rate increases in the water and sewer funds, and he called for those to be reduced.

The Town Board will meet Thursday, Oct. 20, at 6 p.m. at Town Hall.

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