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Bethlehem passes 2023 budget at meeting featuring anti-Semitic debate – The Morning Call

Bethlehem City Council unanimously passed Mayor J. William Reynolds’ 2023 budget Tuesday night without amendment.

But next year’s budget to keep residents’ property taxes at a level wasn’t the main focus of discussions at City Hall on Tuesday. He spoke out against recent reports of anti-Semitic remarks.

On Sunday, several people were seen making loud, anti-Semitic remarks at the Christkindlmarkt wearing T-shirts that read “It’s okay to be white.”

A recent city council meeting also saw anti-Semitic remarks. Former Bethlehem mayoral candidate Arthur Curatola used his public comment period at several meetings to argue that Bethlehem should be more closely aligned with Christianity.

He said at the December 7 city council meeting that the city should “respect and honor” the teachings of Jesus Christ, “even if he were a Jew.”

Council members Hilary Kwiertek and Paige Van Wert walked out during Curatra’s comments at a meeting in early December.

The mayor condemned Curatora’s comments and the incident at Christkindlmarkt in the report.

“If people are going to say something anti-Semitic, we talk to them, we stand up, we walk away when we feel like it, because this is America. When people hear things, It’s against the fabric of this country,” Reynolds said.

Some members of the public denounced anti-Semitism and affirmed their support for Bethlehem’s Jewish community.

“I renounce and condemn anti-Semitism, white supremacy, and Christian nationalism. said Lindsay Clifton, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem, speaking on behalf of the Bethlehem interfaith group.

The incident in Bethlehem comes as part of a recent visible nationwide increase in anti-Semitism. It was the highest year ever recorded.

Reynolds’ $118.4 million budget includes $5 million for the Affordable Housing Fund, $2 million for anti-homelessness initiatives, and $3 million for the Community Recovery Fund, with $16 million to fund the Rescue Plan for America. will be allocated to

The city plans to budget $215,000 more overtime for fire and emergency medical service employees next year than originally planned. According to a memo from Eric Evans, the city’s business manager, his COVID-19 quarantine order in January resulted in employees taking more sick days than the city’s historical average.

The city is also facing staff shortages in its EMS department, according to the memo, relying on part-time doctors to supplement staff needs.

The city plans to use savings from several vacancies in its fire and EMS departments to pay for extra overtime.

City Council Deputy Speaker Grace Crumpsey-Smith has urged city officials to fill vacancies in these departments.

“My concern with overtime is that there are safety and morale issues,” said Crumpsey-Smith.

Bethlehem is facing an increase in labor costs of $2.1 million in 2023 to cover employee pay raises and health care, but only a $1.6 million increase in revenue. In his November budget announcement, Reynolds said the projected revenue increase was only a “conservative estimate” and could end up being higher, so the slight variance is not cause for concern. said.

Wake-up call reporter Lindsay Weber can be reached at: liweber@mcall.com.

https://www.mcall.com/news/local/bethlehem/mc-nws-bethlehem-budget-2023-mayor-city-council-20221221-ltwlpnahnjh4fkmnaeakz6fyra-story.html#ed=rss_www.mcall.com/arcio/rss/category/news/local/ Bethlehem passes 2023 budget at meeting featuring anti-Semitic debate – The Morning Call

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