Tax Hikes Planned in Lackawanna County

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SCRANTON -- There will be no relief for taxpayers in Lackawanna County. Commissioners announced Monday that they plan to raise county taxes again next year.

Lackawanna County Commissioners hiked property taxes by 38% last years, and they proposed another 4% hike this year. Commissioners said that reducing taxes in the 2013 budget just wasn’t an option. In part, because of rising costs but also because your tax dollars will now go into a fund aimed to create jobs.

Lackawanna County taxpayers are taking a hit. But, commissioners promise it’s not as bad as last year. In the first of four budget hearings, commissioners laid out their plan for 2013.

The proposed $92 million 2013 budget includes a 4% property tax hike. For the average taxpayer, that means about $30 more a year. Commissioners cited rising costs for employee health care, and new federal mandates for prison workers.

“You saw we’ve done a great job. Taxes could have been much higher, but we made the cuts that are tough and that are necessary," said Commissioner Jim Wansacz.

The 4% tax hike comes after previous commissioners introduced a 38% percent hike for 2012. The current commissioners say that tax money helped the county out of a financial hole.

This year the extra money raised will go, in part, to a new county fund designed to help businesses bounce back. They call it the economic development fund. It means your tax dollars will go directly to small businesses that hire new workers.

“Government shouldn’t be about job creation. Government should be about providing efficient delivery of services. The private sector needs to be the job creator in our region," said Commissioner Corey O'Brien.

Newswatch 16 took the commissioners’ plan right to a small business owner. Bob Dickert owns Carl Von Luger restaurant on Courthouse Square in Scranton. Dickert says taxpayers might not like the new fund, but he does. And since he’s planning to hire new workers, he says he will use it.

“We are developing two other businesses, and I think it’s a great idea. I think these small towns in Lackawanna County can profit from it,” Dickert said.

The proposed Lackawanna County budget does include layoffs. Commissioners plan to cut more than 20 county jobs.

The $92 million budget needs to be finalized in December.