Republican State Sen. Greg Ball of Patterson brought his traveling legislative review to town hall Tuesday, and found his official audience—a three-member town board—less than enthusiastic about some of Albany’s accomplishments.
The board was especially critical of a state-imposed 2 percent limit on the amount that property taxes—the town’s principal source of revenue—may increase in any year. Coupled with so-called “unfunded mandates”—multiple things the state demands of the town but does not finance—the 2 percent tax cap “is very hard to achieve,” Supervisor Lee V.A. Roberts told Ball. “We’ve been cutting [the budget] for three years.”
Councilman Chris Burdick said that as a result of those cuts, which had already steeply pared town outlays, the tax cap’s arrival now “is almost punitive.” Bedford was put at a disadvantage “because we’ve been fiscally prudent," he said. "I really think those unfunded mandates had to be addressed first” by the legislature.
Councilman Francis Corcoran suggested that some less budget-conscious municipalities elsewhere had deservedly spent their way into a tax cap. “We understand there are lots of places that need it,” he said. But, Corcoran said, “we would rather you had done mandates instead of the cap.”
Ball told him that “politically, it [the mandate relief] would have been a nonstarter.”
Roberts also beseeched Ball for state help with the municipal pension burden, saying, “We have to have some relief from that. . . . If you could address that issue it would be the most meaningful for us.”
Board begins budget planning, Bedford Community Theatre explores non-profit status
The town board’s regular meeting Tuesday was only the centerpiece of an evening that saw hour-long work sessions both before and after the proceedings captured for television/web cameras. Directly and indirectly, the subject, was as it frequently is in these cash-strapped days, money.
In the early session, the board held the first in a doubtlessly lengthy series of meetings on the 2012 budget, not due to be adopted until December. “I know it seems like a long time to talk about the budget,” Roberts said, “but we have many items to consider.”
After the curtain fell on the regular meeting, the board and Town Attorney Joel Sachs met with a dozen members of the Bedford Community Theater. Arrayed around a makeshift table like a cast at a first-reading, they discussed the troupe’s future: should the theater group, once a quasi town department, be treated that way or would it—and the town—benefit from its becoming a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization. No firm decisions were reached, but by the meeting’s final act the nonprofit route was not drawing many rave reviews. “We have jobs, we have kids,” said member Diane Bradsell. “We don’t have time to be a 501(c)(3).”