BEDFORD, N.Y. – Fall leaf pickup may be one of the first town services to go when it comes time to make decisions about balancing Bedford's 2013 budget.
While the Bedford Town Board has not yet settled on any decisions, leaf pickup is one of a number of longtime town services that have been put on the table for cuts. The leaf service, along with sidewalk snow removal and use of the town’s recycling center, have been seen by many as staple services one can count on as a Bedford resident.
At a budget work session this month, Town Board member Daniel Gabrielson said that staying under the state's 2 percent property tax levy cap while keeping town services at the level Bedford residents expect is extraordinarily difficult.
“Given our level of staffing and the level of service that we provide for the town, I think we are on an unsustainable path trying to live within a 2 percent cap,” he said.
Gabrielson said that Public Works Commissioner Kevin Winn, faced with having to cut $200,000 to $300,000 from his department’s budget, has been “absolutely brilliant” finding efficiencies and ways of generating extra revenue for the town.
Winn said that, starting in the last few years of the recession, eliminating leaf pickup has been “something [the board] contemplate[s] every year," as it is a significant use of both manpower and town equipment.
But, he said, comparing Bedford to other communities, the town’s compost facility on Beaver Dam Road basically processes leaves into wood mulch and leaf compost for free, which residents can pick up for their own use. Currently, unlike other towns, Bedford does not have to pay to cart the leaves away.
One cost-effective solution some towns are considering to save on leaf pickup is that of the Bedford-based conservation group Leave Leaves Alone.
Bedford Hills master gardener and LLA member Fiona Mitchell said that letting leaves lie and then mulching them with special mowers has a lower environmental impact than traditional leaf removal.
Katonah resident Barbara Gold, a teacher in the Bedford Central School District, suggested another idea to save the town money: High school students could help pick up and take leaves to Beaver Dam for community service, she said.
This year's leaf pickup schedule, which is subject to the weather, is posted on the town's website. All loose leaves must be out for collection by Dec. 3, and all leaves are to be bagged after that date, the site says. The town’s first pickups are scheduled to begin Nov. 5.