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Letter: Budget talks show lack of leadership

Editor, The Spotlight:

Here in the Town of Bethlehem one thing that residents have become accustomed to is a political landscape that never ceases to deliver head scratching moments. We witnessed another one of these moments at the Nov. 14 board meeting in which the 2013 budget was adopted. Although the proposed 2013 budget called for 1.8 percent decrease in overall spending (from the 2012 budget) due to a reduction in non-residential revenue, the proposed (now approved) 2013 town budget called for a tax increase for property owners.

Board members Joann Dawson and Kyle Kotary (the two longest serving members of the board) each voted against the budget based on their concern (effectively) that spending was too high. Although folks would normally welcome dissent as an opportunity to offer opposing ideas for review and discussion, in this instance, neither Ms. Dawson nor Mr. Kotary could make one specific recommendation for consideration on reducing spending. Prior to the vote they were asked repeatedly if they would offer proposed changes for consideration. Although vocally against the budget as placing too great a burden on taxpayers, neither Ms. Dawson nor Mr. Kotary put forward one single proposal to reduce spending. Even more confounding to their stated position on the budget proposal (spending being too high but offering no solutions on specific proposals to cut spending) was their repeated stated desire to maintain the operation of the Colonial Acres Golf course in 2013, which would lead to increased spending if it continued to be operated by the town.

As reported in the Nov. 21 Spotlight, Mr. Kotary said that he would now make it one of his chief goals to make sure someone is found to operate the course. Given Mr. Kotary’s lack of engagement on a budget that he did not support (he offered no specific spending cuts for consideration) it is safe to say that he is more interested in a golf course than a budget that affects all property owners. And for those who are concerned about the fate of the course in 2013 and beyond, they should look no further than Mr. Kotary and Ms. Dawson for their failure in not advocating substantively and providing specific counterbalancing spending cuts to the proposed budget for the full board to consider to fund the course.

With Democrat Bill Reinhardt’s term commencing in January the board will soon be represented exclusively by Democrats. I hope they appreciate the confidence that the electorate has placed in them and the heightened responsibility associated in advancing the core functions they were elected to carry out in these times of economic strain. Coming out of the budget meeting where we witness what could be viewed as hollow dissent without accompanying solutions (not a single recommendation to reduce spending ) – I am concerned that we remain with a board that contains an obstructionist faction.

Sean Raleigh

Bethlehem

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