Small Businesses Wary over Minimum Wage Hike

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POTTSVILLE - Business leaders in Pottsville say on the surface, raising the minimum wage might sound appealing - offering some relief to those working long days at restaurants, retail shops, and even in local businesses.

But it's leaving many small business owners in Schuylkill County wondering just how they'll balance their bottom line.

The Augustines have been serving up pizza with their special homemade sauce for several years along Centre Street in Pottsville. The North Centre Pizzeria owners say they charge a moderate price for their products, but the president's plan to increase minimum wage. Could change all of that.

"It`s going to hurt us, it`s going to hurt everyone in town, if you don`t like paying the price that you`re paying for pizza now, it`s going to go up another $1.50 to $2.00," said owner John Augustine.

President Obama revealed in his State of the Union Address his plans to increase federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $9.00 an hour - something that's welcomed by many trying to support families.

"I think it`s great that they`d be raising it, people could really use the money," said Norma Secara of Tuscarora.

Augustine has a help wanted sign in the front window here in but says if the wage hike becomes a reality in 2015, he wouldn't be hiring.

Robert Carl works with more than 900 small businesses at the Schuylkill County Chamber of Commerce and agrees this plan could destroy jobs.

"It could be a job killer, in some situations it could be a job killer," said Executive Director Carl.

Business leaders in the Pottsville area say this possible hike in the minimum wage could also hurt businesses that pay above that rate, having a negative effect on the economy.

"The way most businesses do, they would change their whole pay structure, so again, it`s a bumping effect, that most likely most people`s wages would to adjust for the minimum wage," said Carl.

Here at Sarge's Soup and Sandwiches, they've already taken a hit over the past few years. They used to have nine employees.

"Now I`m down to three, I`m down to three employees, and it hurts, it puts the burden on the owners," said owner Daniel Sarge.

He says can't imagine what the future holds if he's forced to increase his pay higher than what he can afford.