If all went as expected on Monday night, Bethlehem Supervisor John Clarkson presented to the public a 2013 tentative town budget that would raise taxes by 8 percent and cut a whole lot of things once thought to be sacred cows: the golf course and police staffing being the most obvious.
This could well mark something of a turning point, which has struggled with budget issues in the past few years, but never to this degree.
While we’ll be fully covering the budget process in the coming weeks, now may actually be a time to look to the past to better interpret the present.
As Marcy Velte reports this week, this harrowing fiscal situation is not unexpected. In fact, we’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop for quite some time because the Selkirk Cogen payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) agreement is expiring next year.
In simple terms, the town is no longer going to get the lion’s share of payments made by Selkirk Cogen. The RCS School District and county will receive much more while the town will see things cut way back. It was an agreement drafted in 1992, and the thinking seems to have been “well, we’ll deal with that tomorrow.” Tomorrow is today.
This hardly snuck up on anyone. It’s been talked about for years and last year we asked town officials about the agreement for a full story. No one had a solution that didn’t involve cuts or taxes. That’s because the agreement, for lack of a better term, stinks.
“(The Cogen contract) is not based on evaluations of any factor based on reality,” Town Comptroller Mike Cohen told us in 2011.
The town would be allowed to raise taxes 19 percent next year and still be under the tax cap. It’s a big deal. It’s a raw deal that’s the result of poor planning not just for a few years, but for decades.