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Now it’s the public’s turn on budget

Bethlehem’s tentative plan keeps 1.27 percent tax hike, but cuts borrowing

— One thing that has changed in recent weeks is the town’s approach to road paving. The town has recently been borrowing for its yearly paving projects, and after the issue was broached in workshops, the new tentative budget includes a measure to draw down borrowing for that purpose.

Under the plan, the highway fund tax would increase by 3 percent and other monies would be shifted to bring just over $100,000 worth of paving back into the operational budget of the Highway Department. About $700,000 worth of paving is budgeted for.

Changes in the taxes to be levied in other funds would bring the blended tax levy hike to the same 1.27 percent.

This plan seemed to sit well with members of the Town Board, who still prodded department heads for more cuts on Thursday in hopes of achieving a flat tax rate.

Acting Commissioner of Public Works Erik Deyoe said his budget was trimmed by $600,000 in this budget proposal and the effects of years of cuts are being felt.

“From my perspective, morale is kind of at an all-time low in our department. ... I’m incredibly concerned about retention,” he said.

There are no across-the-board raises in the tentative budget. About $210,000 is budgeted to give “limited merit increases and incentives,” to be distributed to employees who haven’t seen a raise in recent years or took on additional duties without a pay hike. The town has 236 employees.

Councilman Mark Jordan said he has concerns about the feasibility of the tentative budget even with the tax hike, which accounts for about $121,000 worth of revenue. He said a 10 percent reduction in the overtime budget for the Police Department would likely backfire.

“We’re not even at where we can’t cut anything, we’re below,” Jordan said. “We’re going to have to make a budget modification [next year].”

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RichardReevesEllington 2 years, 11 months ago

While the Board is to be commended for a careful budget. Most changes are to services to the community or material purchases. As I understand the budget breakdown, these areas account for about 18% of the total budget. The largest item, personnel costs are approximately 80%. I see no discussion on managing this fast growth area. It appears that the entire budget could be personnel costs within the decade.

During the recent debate, additional focus was on services consolidation, long range plans, and other areas that are at the margins of the costs. The next Supervisor and Board will have to actively engage in the personnel issue and the Supervisor should be a person with experience in personnel matters in both good and adverse times. I have 34 years of such experience, while the other candidates do not. This should be a strong consideration when you cast your vote. For more, please go to rreevesellington.com for my personal data and bethlehemsupervisor.com for my political profile and platform.

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RichardReevesEllington 2 years, 11 months ago

And additional comment on personnel costs. John Clarkson rightly wants a long term capital plan, Kyle Kotary wants that and a long term budgeting process. Neither have brought up the need for a long term personnel plan. This should be be foundation of the other two, given the amount of cost associated with current employees and retirees. Such a plan, needs to set personnel numbers goals in ways that reduce the rapid growth of these expenses. Layoffs are not necessarily the best solution as there are others: attrition, early retirements, and contractual negotiations. In my experience, a mix best serves all.

The starting point is for our citizens to better understand where the costs are today, where they are growing fastest, and what elements are causing fast growth. Then we all can move forward in a more informed way.

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