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Bethlehem budget calls for 1.23% tax hike

After tough 2013, next year’s plan contains few cuts

— This year’s budget dealt with a $3.5 million budget gap through cutting 16 positions and a property tax levy increase of 7.9 percent.

Town Board members voiced no objections with the tentative budget at the Wednesday meeting.

In a later interview, Democratic Committee Chairman and Councilman Jeffrey Kuhn said he felt the Town Board had made “intelligent fiscal decisions, which left the town in much better shape for next year.”

“I think this is great news for our town,” added Kuhn.

Republican candidates challenging incumbents in the local elections disagreed.

Republican supervisor candidate Fred DiMaggio criticized Clarkson’s spending plan because it would raise taxes during a time when he thinks it to be unnecessary.

“For two years in a row, John Clarkson has increased taxes and raised spending on town residents,” DiMaggio said. “The bottom line is, he can’t seem to balance the budget without raising taxes. Clarkson is irresponsible in suggesting a tax hike when Bethlehem residents already pay one of the highest tax rates in any of the county’s suburban area.”

DiMaggio said he would like to see the Town Board use more of the town’s fund balance for tax relief, pointing out the fund balance is currently above the state’s recommended 15 percent.

According to Cohen, more reserve money was not utilized because those funds are projected to dip below 15 percent in 2016. DiMaggio argued that the town’s fund balance policy is self-imposed and merely a recommendation from the state. He said more money could and should be used for tax relief.

The preliminary budget presentation and public hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 23. Adoption of the budget is scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 13. Two budget workshops will be held on Sept. 26 and Oct. 10.

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