Last year, and in the middle of a pandemic, Bethlehem imposed a five per cent tax increase. Without flinching, the so-called Christmas City also shackled citizens with a new stormwater fee that could have waited a year or two. In addition to making the city more expensive, Bethlehem's elected representatives also voted to make it less safe. Five firefighter positions were cut from the budget. The only person who had the sense to say No to this nonsense was Council member Bryan Callahan. The rest of them, including Mayoral candidate Willie Reynolds, were quick to stick it to the ordinary Joes. No consideration was given to the very real likelihood that cities would be getting recovery money. When that happened, schoolteacher-turned business Administrator Eric Evans gave Callahan a song-and-dance when the latter suggested that officials use that money to hire firefighters and return the tax hike. While the City drags its feet on what to do with its $33.1 million windfall from the feds, it was quick to announce on Friday that a 8.4% water hike is coming. This will be imposed on all customers using Bethlehem water. But finally, Bethlehem Mayor Bob Donchez has hit the pause button.
This rate hike can be paid, at least temporarily, through the monies the city receives from The American Rescue Plan. Hopefully, he recognizes that there are no money trees in the back yards of Bethlehem residents.