Bethlehem Proposed Budget Survives Motion To Cut At Deliberative Session

During Monday’s Bethlehem Board of Selectmen’s meeting, selectmen said town legal counsel doesn’t recommend enforcing a town ordinance against profane signs up up about a month ago at the Pine Wood Apartments motel because the town could find itself in a First Amendment lawsuit would likely lose. Board members are, however, reaching out to state agencies to see if anything can be done at the state level.

The Bethlehem Board of Selectmen’s proposed 2022 operating budget survived a motion to cut during Tuesday’s town deliberative session.

Selectmen are proposing a $3.182 million operating budget.

Resident Chris McGrath, who submitted the required five minimum signatures for a secret ballot vote, made a motion to reduce the budget by $126,000.

That motion failed in a 16-27 vote.

The default budget is $2.859 million.

The only article amended was a social services article from the Littleton-based nonprofit Pathways Pregnancy Care Center.

The warrant article request to Bethlehem was for $250 to support education programs for 2022, but some Bethlehem voters amended it to $0 after saying that they wanted to make a point that the town doesn’t want to have religious organizations seeking funding from townspeople.

For the 2002 budget, selectmen, during the budget hearing in January, said the 11-percent increase above last year reflects inflation and the rising costs of materials and services as well as increases in employee wages to keep wages competitive to attract and retain quality employees.

Among the 21 warrant articles, voters on Tuesday approved for the March 8 town ballot vote Article 21, which asks them to dissolve the revolving fund for the Bethlehem Country Club, for decades town-owned and now privately owned, and to transfer the funds and accumulated interest to the town’s general fund.

They also cleared for the March town vote Article 3, asking for $50,000 to put into the highway equipment capital reserve fund; Article 4, requesting $25,000 for the police cruiser capital reserve fund; Article 6, seeking $10,000 for the ambulance, capital reserve fund, Article 7, asking for $50,000 for the fire truck capital reserve fund; and Article 8, asking for $10,000 to be added to the fire department safety equipment reserve fund.

Article 11 will ask for $20,000 for the solid waste disposal capital reserve fund and Article 14 requests $9,000 for live musical entertainment at the gazebo in 2022.

With no zoning-related articles for 2022, Bethlehem’s 2022 town meeting ballot is shorter than in recent years.

The town meeting ballot vote is scheduled from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. March 8 at Bethlehem Town Hall.

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