HAZLETON - Hazleton's Mayor believes the city has hit the proverbial "fiscal cliff" and is pleading to have the 2013 budget approved. It will leave property owners to foot that hefty tax burden. But city hall says right now, there's no better option.
Homeowners could pay an 83% tax increase in 2013 to keep the city's finances afloat.
"If this budget is not approved, the consequences will be far-reaching, will affect our ability to get a tax anticipation note which we need for next year, or any other loans in the future," said Mayor Joe Yannuzzi.
Mayor Yannuzzi said every city department is already operating at the bare minimum including the fire department which has only 21 full-time firefighters, and has been frugally crafting its budget for years.
"We realize, we're taxpayers too, I live in the city and I'm a taxpayer and know how much that dollar has to stretch," said Fire Chief Donald Leshko.
Up until now, the city has kept the cost per resident to only $302 dollars per year. Compare that to Scranton's $1117, Wilkes-Barre's $1080 and Williamsport's $664 cost per resident, but still Hazleton is $1. 7 million dollars short on cash.
At this point the Mayor doesn't plan to announce any layoffs but he has asked all of the unions including the police department to offer any suggestions on how to save money in this year's budget.
"I spoke to the unions about their contracts and if they would consider anything and they are about to get back to me, and I hope they do," said Mayor Yannuzzi.
But residents say they can't withstand a tax hike of about $250 dollars more a year.
"It would certainly kill me, yes," said Roman Baran of Hazleton.
Baran has owned property in the city for 18 years and is on a fixed income. He wants other financial options to be explored.
"I would like to see them come up with a method of getting all of the residents to participate in paying these bills," said Baran.
Hazleton's current budget proposal doesn't include any capital items or insurance deductibles. City council will meet Wednesday evening to talk more in-depth about the 2013 budget before any final decisions are made.