Luzerne County Budget Proposal: No Tax Increase, Jobs Eliminated

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WILKES-BARRE -- Luzerne County now has its first budget proposal under its new form of government, called the Home Rule Charter.

The proposal called for less spending, paying off the county’s debt and no property tax increases, however there will be the eliminations of jobs.

Luzerne County is now looking at a roughly $122 million proposed spending plan for 2013.

Drawn up by county manager Robert Lawton, he says this budget proposal will spend about $383 thousand less than last year’s budget, pay nearly$ 3 million towards the county’s debt and Lawton says this can be done without any property tax increases to county residents.

“It think it’s good because I think it was a travesty that many people suddenly that their taxes increased so dramatically because I don’t think that people should be taxes out of their homes,” said Kristen Ciaccia of Dallas.

However the plan does call for the elimination of 61 county jobs, though 41 of those positions Lawton says are already vacant.

The jobs include six division heads that were eliminated with the adoption of the Home Rule Charter, some staff from budget and finance, some clerical jobs and some positions at the Luzerne County Prison.

“That’s just ridiculous, especially if they’re laying off prison employees, people are in there for a reason,” said Brian Shanahan of Nanticoke.

Lawton says this proposal presents a balanced budget that reflects the real cost of doing business.

He says he is fully prepared to work with council to get this budget passed.

“Because of the economy and because of the past, he’s not going to be liked for what he does, if he wants to make the budget work he’s going to have do things that are going to hurt jobs, and that’s what he’s doing,” said Mary Elizabeth Budinas. “He’s laying off, not raising the taxes, so we need to start somewhere, we can’t continue the way we’re going.”

Lawton says he will present this budget proposal to council at a public hearing on October 30th.

Council has until December 15th to pass it.