BETHLEHEM, NY. - The police department is one of several services Bethlehem Town Supervisor John Clarkson says will not see a big cut with his proposed 2013 budget, as the town works to close the $3.5 million gap.
"Our residents do not want to give up the quality of services they enjoy and we don't want that to happen either," Clarkson said.
In order to keep services like the public safety, roads, parks and recreation, and water treatment, Clarkson is proposing raising property taxes by eight percent.
"It's not easy to ask your residents to pay more property taxes, but I think the situation we're in with the loss of the Selkirk Cogen revenues really makes it necessary," Clarkson said.
The loss of revenue Clarkson's talking about is the $1.7 million in tax help the town received from a more than 20 year pilot agreement with the Selkirk Cogen natural gas plant that ended this year.
On top of the property tax increase, Clarkson proposes to cut 16 positions by attrition and to stop funding the Colonial Acres Golf Course. No layoffs are planned.
A crowd of about three dozen sat through the more that two hour presentation.
Jared King praised the supervisor for the budget. "I like the fact we're reducing the number of people on the planning board," King said.
While Jeremy Martelle says there may be other solutions. "An eight percent tax increase in this economic climate is unacceptable," Martell said.
An eight percent increase, means the average Bethlehem resident with a home worth $250,000 will pay an increase of $67 a year.
Eight percent is also less than the town is allowed to charge residents under the new Tax Cap Law. They could raise property taxes as much as 19 percent.
Supervisor Clarkson says he understands the resident's frustration, but because the town did not plan ahead for the loss of the Selkirk Cogen funds, property owners have to pick up the slack in order to keep the services they have become accustomed to.
"The current budget year which we did not plan for is a good example, you have to look ahead and I promise that we'll do that and a tax increase such as we're facing this year will not happen again. "
A budget meeting is scheduled for Monday, October 1st at 6:00 p.m.
For more information on the 2013 tentative budget proposal: http://www.townofbethlehem.org/images/pageImages/Comptroller/2013%20tentative%20budget.pdf