The coronavirus pandemic and changes in local alcohol law have lowered the expected revenue for the City of Bethel by almost $1 million. Plus, the city’s budget for policing continues to go up, even as a national movement calls for the opposite.
The City of Bethel entered Fiscal Year 2021 on July 1, with two major sources of revenue taking a hit. The COVID-19 pandemic lowered the city’s expected sales tax by about $500,000, and entering local option alcohol sale limitation also reduced the city’s expected alcohol sales tax by a few hundred thousand dollars.
But those losses will be more than made up for with new revenue sources. The city is expecting $600,000 from marijuana sales taxes, and the same amount from sales tax on online purchases, which Bethel residents will start paying in September. Overall, City Manager Vincenzo “Vinny” Corazza said that the city is doing fine on revenue.
“I would say it's an up projection,” Corazza said.
On the expenses side, the city is increasing its spending by 12%. One increase is in the police department’s budget, which has gone up by about $1 million over the past five years, and is now about a third of the city’s budget. Amid nationwide calls to “defund” the police, Corazza, also currently Acting Police Chief, said that Bethel has a different situation.
“I think those protests were aimed towards what's going on with the nation, but I haven't heard anything negative about our police department,” Corazza said. “So we're continuing what we've been doing. And if they need our support, we provide it to them.”
Corazza says that a lot of the additional expenses in the Bethel budget are due to the city’s heightened focus on maintaining roads.
“The current council understands the public when they call out for the need of better maintained roads,” Corazza said.
“Once you have a construction of the subdivision, you need to have inspectors to go out there,” Corazza said.
The city is also dipping into its savings account, which builds up during budget surplus years. The city is purchasing $3 million worth of vehicles, computer services, and heavy machinery for road maintenance. Council member Mark Springer said that these capital items will have “long lasting value to the city.”