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Bethlehem’s budget review continues

Committee considers water and sewer fee hikes, cut of leaf pickup

— “We had to present (to the board) the reality of the situation and that’s the reality,” Deyoe said. “I’m not one to second guess or Monday morning quarterback previous administrations. At the time, with what we had to work with and the policies that were in place, it was not an unreasonable decision.”

The budget committee suggested a gradual rate increase for water and sewer to meet costs, as right now both funds are losing money. The committee said there would need to be a 19 percent rate increase in water fees and a 10 percent increase in sewer fees over three years to meet future costs.

Other options included reexamining the contract with Albany or selling water at a lower cost to other municipalities. Deyoe said lawyers have looked at the contract and the budget committee suggested proposing a buyout, but legal options are limited. As far as selling the water, there is a potential for an agreement with the Town of New Scotland if development there creates the need.

Clarkson said as great as the ideas are, setting up any new agreements would take time.

Highway Department

The Highway Department has an operating budget of $7.3 million, with major responsibilities including the removal of ice and snow, repaving and reconstruction of roads, maintenance and brush removal. Of that budget, nearly $1.4 million come from the Selkirk Cogen power plant PILOT. The expiration of that agreement next year will equal 30 percent of the department’s budget.

“Clearly the town would have to look at major reductions in some of those core services,” said Tom Clash, of the Budget Advisory Committee. “We didn’t try to quantify this or characterize it except to say that I think there are significant safety issues that the town could face.”

Members of the budget committee said they felt it was unreasonable for the highway department to take the entire hit, and the town should looks to spread the cuts.

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