Supervisor candidates meet in debate

Budget, leadership, level of partisanship recurring themes during lively evening

Candidates in the Democratic primary for Bethlehem supervisor met in debate on Thursday, Sept. 1.

Candidates in the Democratic primary for Bethlehem supervisor met in debate on Thursday, Sept. 1. Rachel Brennan

— Clarkson said he would take a pay cut if he were elected supervisor and said he'd like to see a committee look into government reform ideas. Proposals made by a 20/20 committee Clarkson served on to extend the supervisor's term and make several elected positions appointed never gained traction on the Town Board. He also said the town should make sure it exercises control during the planning process for big projects.

The town's fiscal position was a recurring theme, and on that subject, the candidates had different thoughts.

Kotary outlined the need for changes, including an end of “off budget” spending and a reassessment of the town's revenue streams, but ultimately said this year’s budget is a shining example of the power of compromise and, as a result, one of the strongest fiscal plans the town’s put out in recent memory.

“We have, I think, appropriately used fund balances,” Kotary said. “That's money used for rainy days, and it's raining, literally and figuratively. That is there for emergency spending, for capital projects, and that's what we've used it for.”

Clarkson, on the other, hand, asserted there are deep-seated issues in the town's budget and its budgeting philosophy. He advocated that the town cut down on its borrowing and put a halt to the spending of the town's reserve funds.

“For the last four years, we have been balancing the budget by spending down reserves at a rapid rate. That is in essence like paying your mortgage using a savings account,” he said.

When asked after the debate about the recently unveiled draft budget for the town (see related story), Kotary intimated that there's a long road ahead.

“It’s a late, but a good place and plan to start,” he said. “I'm not for the tax increase right now, but I think it’s a solid start and we have a lot to do.”

Clarkson said the budget implements some of the things he'd like to see done, but also referred to it as a “tight budget.”

“They’re moving away from spending reserves…that’s at least a start,” he said.

The primary is on Tuesday, Sept. 13.

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