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Bethlehem OKs Comp Plan review group

In an evening spent tackling perennial issues, board also sets fund balance policy

— The policy does not specify a timeline for the creation of a report, but Clarkson said he’d like to see the committee begin work in the spring and have a product in hand by the end of the year.

The resolution sets a fairly broad charge for the committee, but it’s likely the town’s stance on the preservation of open space will play some role in the dialogue. The question of how (or if) the town should be involved in green space initiatives has been a matter of considerable debate in recent years, including a particularly lively discourse over whether the town should attempt to buy the Normanside Country Club when it went up for sale (the town made an offer but was outbid).

Details on how to express interest in serving on the focus panel should be posted in the near future on the town’s website at townofbethlehem.org.

Fund balance policy ‘memorialized’

The town of Bethlehem now has a formal policy on fund balance levels that codifies what has been the general planning practice in recent years.

The Town Board on Wednesday debated the fund balance policy for over an hour before unanimously adopting it. Its central tenant is the town should aim to hold in reserves 15 percent of its level of budgeted appropriations. If that level climbs to over 20 percent the town would transfer the extra money into the capital reserve funds (requiring that money to be earmarked for a specific purpose) and if it dropped below 7.5 percent the comptroller and Town Board would be required to formulate a plan to return the reserves to at least that minimum level within three years. The policy applies only to the general fund.

Though there is little guidance from the state comptroller’s office on fund balances, the National Government Finance Officer’s Association recommends governments keep about two months worth of spending on hand (or 17 percent of the budget), according to Bethlehem Comptroller Michael Cohen.

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