HAZLETON – There is confusion about the budget in the city of Hazleton.
Thursday night, city council approved a tentative plan that included a 23% real estate tax increase.
That plan included cuts in the police department and fire department budgets, which the city’s police chief said would mean laying off four police officers.
The city’s mayor said Friday that council members did not follow protocol when they approved that tentative plan.
“They presented it and then made amendments to it with increases in taxes and with increases in taxes, the amendment needed a majority plus one, which would have been a four to one vote. They didn’t have that so the amendment actually failed,” said Mayor Joe Yannuzzi.
Law requires the city have a budget in place by the first of the year.
The mayor believes that because council did not approve one, his budget proposal will go forward. That plan calls for an 83% property tax hike, which amounts to about $200 more a year for average homeowners in the city.
“Being a hardworking citizen of Hazleton, I really wish I wish they could do something a little more positive about it. Anywhere I can save a buck, I will, but I mean, I would like to see what’s best for the residents in Hazleton all together,” said James Dagostino of Hazleton.
Some people in Hazleton said they do not like higher taxes, but they said they do not want to lose fire or police protection.
“We need more officers, and we need the fire department here. There’s too many fires going on between Wilkes-Barre, Scranton, Hazleton. We need them,” said Hector Gutierrez.
The mayor said the city solicitor agrees with him, but is researching exactly how the city should proceed now with the budget.