31% Property Tax Increase Proposed for Wilkes-Barre

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WILKES-BARRE -- Wilkes-Barre Mayor Tom Leighton says a 31% property tax increase would cover the city's spending for 2013. However, he says if union and city employees are willing to make concessions, it would lower that tax hike and save the average homeowner a lot of money.

With the city of Wilkes-Barre in what officials are calling the worst financial mess in its history, Mayor Tom Leighton is proposing a property tax hike for the first time in four years. It's a 31% property tax increase.

For the average homeowner, that comes to an extra $183 a year.

"This is the budget. If passed, we could live with it in 2013 but it's not one I'm fond of," said Wilkes-Barre Mayor Tom Leighton.

That's why Leighton has asked union and city employees to make concessions. He's requesting city employees to forgo a 3% pay raise and three non-federal holidays.

If employees make these concessions, Leighton says they'll be able to lower the tax increase. If not, it would likely mean layoffs next year.

"No tax hike would be my goal. Realistically that won't happen, but get it down to a level where the people feel comfortable with it," said Leighton.

Leighton hopes to avoid layoffs. He wants to ensure that services are preserved for people in the city of Wilkes-Barre.

"We must continue to make our streets safer than what they are and we must continue to provide public safety that people are comfortable with here in the city of Wilkes-Barre," said Leighton.

So far this year, the city is facing a $2 million deficit. Leighton says probably the only way to close that gap is if enough workers take voluntary furloughs or if there are layoffs by the end of the year. This has nothing to do with the 2013 budget.

The city has until the end of 2012 to pass the new proposed budget.