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Steve Rush is one of the Bedford City councilmen who won reelection last fall, then has had to turn around and do the whole process over again this spring in order to get a seat on Bedford Town Council. City Council will disappear when the city of Bedford becomes the town of Bedford on July 1.
Right now Rush and the other councilmen are working on the town’s first budget. City Manager Charles Kolakowski presented budget proposals to City Council last month. Rush notes that one difference is that they no longer have to worry about the school budget.
As a city, Bedford contracted with Bedford County for school services. The county set the school budget and the city was contractually obligated to pay an amount based on this budget, an amount that City Council had no control over. Rush expects this to provide a big cost reduction for the town as Bedford will be part of the county.
Rush said the real estate tax rate will come down. He expects Bedford’s first fiscal year as a town to give Town Council a good baseline for what to expect in revenue and expenses.
Another difference is that there won’t be a separate water and sewer system. The city’s water and sewer department employees will work for the new Bedford Regional Water Authority.
Other areas will remain the same. The town will still retain its police department. The public works department will still be there and the town will maintain streets and sidewalks and pick up trash just as the city did.
“We said services weren’t going to change,” he said.
Town residents will pay a town real estate tax along with the county’s real estate tax rate of 50 cents per $100 of assessed value. Rush said he wants the town tax rate to be less than 25 cents per $100. He prefers 11 cents.
“I think we can live within our means,” he said. Rush does not expect to have to increase the tax rate after this first fiscal year as a town.
Rush wants to make it more attractive for people to shop downtown.
“If you can’t get people to shop downtown, you can’t keep businesses open,” he said.
He thinks Bedford is in a good position for that to happen.
“We are the urban center of the county,” he said. “Everybody comes here because this is where the center of the county is.”
Rush would also like to see as many of the old industrial buildings as possible be reoccupied. He noted that some already have businesses in them. Getting businesses in these buildings will boost the city’s tax base.
He hopes to market the Bedford Middle School building to business. He believes something could be done with it in a public/private partnership. It has high speed internet access and Rush believes that will make it attractive.
What about Old Yellow? Rush doesn’t believe the town will ever find a use for that building.
Rush, currently a real estate agent, is a retired law enforcement officer.