Town to reexamine what it pays for trade and professional group memberships
The Bethlehem Town Board tackled its yearly organizational tasks Wednesday, Jan. 12, making the dozens of votes needed to officially staff town offices and set policies.
Though most of the items were unremarkable, the Town Board did table a motion on authorizing the payment of thousands of dollars in membership dues to various trade and professional organizations. Several board members said the town should reexamine what it gets out of the dozens of memberships it pays for town employees.
I have some concerns about the value we get, including with the Association of Towns, said Councilman Kyle Kotary. `Although it’s not a lot of money, it adds up and it’s symbolic.`
The board did approve spending $1,650 in dues for membership in that organization, with Councilman Mark Hennessey casting a dissenting vote. He later said the possibility of a property tax cap being passed is something the town should seriously consider now, and the dues could be a way to `trim the sails.` He also questioned whether the Association of Towns membership is a good investment.
`We have a variety of expenses in front of us,` he said. `We’ve got to start doing more with less.`
The board also voted to send John Flanigan as the town’s representative to the annual meeting of the Association of Towns, but the former president of that group will make the trip at his own expense.
There were over $13,000 in dues included in the 2011 budget, not including the approved Association of Towns fee, and they stretched over nearly every town department. Some were for as little as $15 (to the Albany-Schenectady County Assessors Association) while others went into the hundreds ($405 in dues to the American Public Works Association).
Some Town Board members and members of the public wondered if providing such dues is a good use of money..
`We all do this in our professional lives, no one pays our membership fees for us,` said Councilwoman Joann Dawson. `This is exactly what our residents are going through, they’re looking at their budgets.`
She noted some employees belong to state, local and county branches of the same associations, and it might be worth studying which one brings in the most value.
Supervisor Sam Messina voted to table the item, but he also voiced his support for the list. He said membership dues were already cut back during the budgeting process. Some have already been paid this year, also.
`There’s money in our budget for these proposed expenditures,` he said.
Beyond the issue of membership dues, there were few, if any, surprises in the organizational agenda. Top town staff will remain unchanged:
Josh Cansler will serve as commissioner of public works; Suzanne Traylor will serve as comptroller; Michael Morelli will serve as director of economic development and planning; and Susan Leath will serve as town historian.
Kate Powers was appointed to another seven-year term on the Planning Board and Anthony Umina was appointed to another five-year term on the Zoning Board of Appeals. Daniel Coffey was reappointed at chairman of the ZBA, and George Leveille was reappointed as the chairman of the Planning Board. Both of those appointments are for one year.
Ryan Donovan was appointed to his second term as a town justice. The rest of the town’s elected officials are in the middle of their terms.
Town Board meetings will continue on at 6 p.m. on the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month, though there was a brief discussion about moving it later. Official Town Hall hours were set for between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.
The Spotlight was designated the town’s paper of record. “