Posted at: 09/24/2012 12:32 AM
By: Dan Bazile
BETHLEHEM - Higher taxes and fees, job cuts and reduced services are all part of a new budget proposal for the town of Bethlehem.
The town supervisor says he needed to close a multi-million dollar budget gap and the town simply has to do more with less.
Reductions across the board in a new budget proposal -- gave the town of Bethlehem more than enough to close a $3.5 million budget shortfall.
Under the plan, town supervisor John Clarkson says 16 positions would be cut; there would also be less staff at parks and other recreational areas along with fee increases.
“We addressed that gap more than half making cuts to expenditures, largely through staff attrition.”
Clarkson says he's cutting back on a number of services which are mostly used by a small proportion of the population.
“The transfer station also knows as the dump, which a lot of people rely on, we cut back from five to three days. Similarly at the compost facility, you're only going to be able to go there three rather than five days and a shortened season.”
In addition, the colonial golf course would be shut down. But even with all those cuts, the plan calls for an eight percent increase in property taxes.
Clarkson explained, “What’s hitting us in particular this year is the loss of a major pilot that's a special property tax payment from Selkirk Cogen, $1.7 million.”
Clarkson says the eight percent seems scary -- however, the average homeowner in the town will only see tax bills go up by 67 dollars for the year. Plus he says the budget actually decreases spending, taking the town below the two percent tax cap.
Regardless of the explanation, may residents say they're concerned about any kind of increase. One resident we spoke to said, “It's definitely going to have an effect on the folks that live here, especially with the job market the way it is and it will have an effect on the real estate market as well.”
Clarkson is assuring taxpayers these increases won't happen again in the future. He’s presenting the plan to board members on Monday night.