BETHLEHEM The public will be giving Bethlehem leaders comments on a 2012 budget that includes the same tax hike as originally proposed nearly two months ago, but has changed considerably in other areas.
There will be a public hearing on the tentative budget at the Town Board meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 26. The board has met in five budget workshops this season, including an extra one called for Thursday, Oct. 20, to hammer out outstanding disagreements.
The resulting product, which carries a 1.27 percent tax hike in addition to increases in sewer and water user fees, was deemed to be a reasonable compromise to most board members, though there will be time to make changes before a scheduled Nov. 9 budget adoption.
“I’m very pleased we are where we’re at right now,” said Councilman Kyle Kotary on Thursday. “At this point we’re getting closer and closer to a budget that meets the needs of everybody.”
The tax hike could still be an issue, though. Throughout the process, board members have expressed opposition to any increase in taxes, while Supervisor Sam Messina has maintained the proposed hike is a fair one along with the reductions in operation expenses (he said there’ve been $1.4 million) and reduction on the use of the fund balances.
“We’ve done our job. We’ve done it professionally, and we’ve reduced expenses,” he said.
Since the budget was first presented, a number of proposed projects that would have been borrowed for have been taken out, the most significant being 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.
Even with cuts, the town would end up spending over $38 million, or around what was budgeted for this year. Some costs, not the least of which the town’s mandatory retirement contributions, have skyrocketed year-to-year.