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Bethlehem talks turkey, few cuts appeal

Attrition said to be key to balancing budget while keeping services

— Town leaders were wary about ending leaf pickup or cutting back too far on recreational programs, especially when it comes to the pool.

“I’d like to see us continue doing a lot of the little things and see them add up instead of cutting something that people enjoy,” said Councilman Kyle Kotary.

Things were less certain when the Colonial Acres Golf Course came up. Though no decision was made, several on the board were quick to note the course operates well below break-even and the number of rounds played there have fallen by half since the town took it over. It is rented from the Open Space Conservancy for $1 per year, leading Kotary to wonder if its operation could be outsourced for a considerable profit.

Adding to the uncertainty is the fact $100,000 in improvements are slated for Colonial Acres. Councilman Jeffrey Kuhn, like others on the board, noted many of the proposed cuts spur philosophical debates about the role of government.

“Whether we need to operate a money losing par-3 golf course adds another dimension to it,” he said.

The town’s lease on the golf course expires at the end of August, but the Conservancy will continue to rent it on a month-to-month basis until a decision is made. Town officials figure shuttering the course would save $50,000 in 2013.

Even if the board adopted all of the immediate cuts on the list for 2013 (including closing the transfer and compost facilities, ending leaf pick up, closing the golf course, dramatically cutting recreational opportunities, increasing fees and trimming police services in many areas) the savings would add up to under $800,000. Some previous estimates have put the town’s budget gap at $3.5 million.

Perennial debate codified

One resolution the board did pass Wednesday was a formal policy to guide what membership dues the town will pay for its employees.

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