HAZLETON – Even though the deadline passed two days ago, officials inside city hall said that they still aren’t sure if there is a working budget for the city of Hazleton.
Mayor Joseph Yannuzzi said that he believes his proposed budget, which includes an 83 percent property tax increase, went into effect this week since city council failed to pass a budget before the December 31 deadline.
City solicitor Chris Slosser said he, Zannuzzi, and Council President James Perry met for several hours to discuss the dilemma Wednesday afternoon and that progress was made, but Slosser said he’s still working to figure out if there is a working budget.
Yannuzzi said that city operations are underway as usual, but that people could start seeing impacts to public services if progress isn’t made by next week.
“We're just starting the New Year, so unless we go into a week of this year, then we'll have expenses that we might have a problem paying for if we don't a have a budget in place,” said Yannuzzi.
Councilman Jack Mundie said council’s original budget proposal called for a 23 percent tax increase, but debt service and other figures were accidentally omitted, and the latest projections call for a proposed 43 percent tax hike to balance the books.
Mundie blamed part of the budget issue on the solicitor not attending council meetings and Yannuzi failing to plan ahead and missing revenue opportunities.
“This is his own doing. We could have had a handle on this and maybe be up to speed and had a budget we all maybe could agree on. But he kept putting it off, and it's the last minute,” said Mundie. “It is a problem; the amendments and the whole budget, but whether it defers to his budget, I don't believe he's correct either. I think you have to vote on a budget in order for it to be enforced. You don't just automatically go to the one that you proposed."
Council members are expected to discuss budget-related issues during a closed-door executive session before the regularly-scheduled council meeting Thursday at 5:30 p.m.