Early budget forecast bleak

Bethlehem’s budget gap to run up to $3.5M

— “But nobody here is proposing that big of an increase,” Clarkson said.

According to Cohen and Clarkson, the town is now looking to “restructure” expenditures by leaving vacant positions unfilled, consolidating some town services and renegotiating contracts to result in savings for the town. The budget advisory group is brainstorming additional savings ideas.

“I do want to say it is not their job, the citizen’s advisory group, to close our gap for us,” said Clarkson. “That is fundamentally something only the board and I can do and moreover we want to do it with consensus from the community.”

The supervisor also said the town is in negotiations with two of three public safety unions, but one has yet to come to the table. More specifics about the negotiations are expected to be known by the fall budget presentation.

Towns throughout Albany County are concerned about a potential proposal by County Executive Dan McCoy for a “cap” on county sales tax. Cohen said Bethlehem depends heavily on its share of the sales tax and a “cap” could result in an additional loss of $1 million for the town.

Cohen said the town receives about $10 million annually through county sales tax revenue and in some ways the loss of an additional $1 million is more worrying than the losses from the PILOT.

When asked about the prospect, McCoy said by email unfunded mandates leave the county “no choice” but to look for ways to increase our revenue to offset the impact on county property taxes.

“Albany County must consider changing the sales tax distribution formula to help offset the increases in unfunded mandates. The current 60-40 split is generous by comparison to other counties across New York State. Some counties keep all the sales tax while others keep even larger portions than Albany County,” he said.

Clarkson said Town Board members will do everything possible to preserve the quality of town services for residents while taking the steps needed to balance the budget.

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