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Changes bring rewards

Bethlehem receives $776k grant from state efficiency program

— The Town of Bethlehem was the only municipality in the Capital District to receive a share of efficiency grants handed out by the state last week.

The town received $776,107 through the state’s Local Government Performance and Efficiency Program. The grant was officially received for “departmental restructuring of the town’s payment system and maintenance staff,” but Supervisor John Clarkson said it was specifically for consolidation efforts between the Parks and Recreation and Highway Departments.

Clarkson said the decision was made last year to move four employees of the Parks and Recreation Department into the Highway Department. Those employees still work a majority of the time as park employees, but by making the change those same workers can also help plow snow in the winter.

“We felt it was a way for those people to be better utilized,” said Clarkson.

Bethlehem first applied for the grant through the efforts of a graduate intern who recognized the town may have fit the requirements.

Other considerations submitted by the town were about $445,000 saved through the attrition of six employees,Clarkson said. The town also implemented a digital Lockbox system for the processing of some resident bills.

“The reward is based on a formula of how much saved and town population,” Clarkson said. “I was cautious with telling my expectations to the public when we applied, because I didn’t think we would receive that much.”

The New York Department of State gave away a total of $12 million to 13 municipalities. The LGPEP “rewards local governments for undertaking significant and innovative actions that reduce the property tax burden confronting residents.”

“This program is an integral part of Gov. (Andrew) Cuomo’s agenda to improve efficiency and reduce costs at all levels of government,” said New York Secretary of State Cesar Perales in a statement. “The governor is yet again applying a competitive process to stimulate creativity and innovation among decision makers, and the big winners are the taxpayers who will benefit from smart, cost saving investments in their communities’ futures.”

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