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Bethel accepts preliminary budget

By Fritz Mayer
October 16, 2013

Supervisor Dan Sturm told residents gathered at the meeting on October 9 that the town faced some “challenges” with this year’s budget. The first is that the property tax cap increase imposed by Albany this year is not 2% but actually 1.6%, which is called in Albany the “levy growth factor.”

Sturm said Bethel, like all municipalities across the state, is facing significant cost increases in various areas. Sturm said, “Workers compensation going up 13.7% or $22,000; New York State retirement going up 13.9%, it’s a state mandate; health insurance will go up anywhere from 3% to 9%.”

Still, Sturm said that because of prudent fiscal policies, the proposed budget comes in at less than the 1.6% cap mandated by Albany. The mandate could be overridden by a supermajority vote of the board, but Sturm and council members said that would not be necessary.

Another matter addressed by the board was about a man who was accused of living illegally in a barn with no plumbing or septic at a parcel on Perry Road. A letter from a neighboring property owner Susan Harte, complained that the owner of the barn, a man named Bowman, also had two campers on the property in violation of town code.

Harte requested that town officials compel Bowman to remove the camper and stop living in the barn. She said in the letter, “It should be noted that over the past 20 years, Mr. Bowman has held various permits on the barn with an intent to convert it into a residence.”

She said Bowman’s activities have lowered the property value of her house, and “I am prepared to pursue legal remedies against the town if necessary, but I would hope it would not come to that.”

Sturm moved to forward the letter to the town code enforcement officer, but voted not to accept the photos Harte submitted because there was concern that Harte entered Bowman’s property to obtain the photos.

Councilperson Denise Frangipane said, “This is an issue that has been going on for a while, and while we received an opinion that there is not anything in our code that says this is a direct violation, it might be worth going out and taking another look. It seems like the situation hasn’t been remedied in a way that we may be satisfied with.”