Bethlehem’s budget review continues

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

— Because of the mild winter, the town did save $90,000 in overtime and $40,000 in sand and salt purchases. The town could also see savings next year because of the current stock the town already has.

The department has also seen savings through attrition. Four positions have not been filled out of the 55 that are budgeted. This has resulted in a savings of $250,000.

Options to increase revenue include an increase in fees for residents to purchase compost and instituting a fee for fall leaf pick up. To reduce costs, the committee suggested deferring the purchase of equipment, eliminating the town compost facility, closing the town’s transfer station and eliminating leaf pick up altogether. Concerns accompanied each of those plans, such as an increase in illegal dumping of furniture and appliances and the cost to residents for a private service to remove leaves and debris.

The committee also looked at using a one-person plowing system and further employee cuts through attrition, but said a loss in the level of services could occur and the results could be dangerous.

“I think there are serious risks in any of these options we have considered … but regardless of the decisions, it’s clear to us that the highest priority for the Highway Department ought to be safety,” said Clash.

He said that involves maintaining the paving cycle of roads and continuing ice and snow control.

Senior Services

The budget committee did not come up with any recommended cuts to Senior Services, as it represents only 2 percent of the budget. The department is mostly staffed through volunteer labor and the not-for-profit Bethlehem Senior Projects contributes heavily to the department’s needs.

All of the services provided through the department’s many programs were deemed to be needed, especially as the seniors are expected to make up 31 percent of the town’s population by 2020. To increase revenues, the committee said raising the suggested donations for transportation services could help. Members also thought implementing a memorial program to purchase town benches or trees in a person’s memory could help raise funds.

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