A tax increase for Luzerne County homeowners and job cuts for county employees are what county officials are delivering this holiday season.
The county council approved the 2014 proposed budget by a vote of six to five Tuesday night.
Next year’s spending plan calls for a property tax hike of roughly 40 dollars a year to the average homeowner and the potential of nearly forty workers being furloughed.
Homeowners in Luzerne County can expect to pay more in property taxes in the next year with an 8 percent hike coming in 2014.
For the average homeowner, that’s an extra 42 dollars a year.
“Here we go again, budget time, layoffs or taxes, every year certain people blindly call for changes in the county mostly continued cuts to the county workforce.”
Luzerne County Council approved next year`s budget for the county by a narrow vote of six to five after much bitter fighting amongst themselves and harsh comments thrown at County Manager Robert Lawton, who proposed the $124 million spending plan.
“Manage! I will not vote for any budget that you present, you`re the manager, you manage!” yelled one council member.
Lawton says the budget has a $1.4 million deficit and in an attempt to close that gap, council has been negotiating with the county`s unions to see if concessions can be made, particularly in contributing to health care costs.
If not 38 employees, 26 union, 12 non-union could be furloughed in the next year.
“I know Mr. Lawton and many of the members of council are looking for concessions and I know we`re willing to entertain them,” said one union worker.
But the biggest financial burden for the county is its $380 million debt, accrued over years of borrowing.
The county is now on payment plan through 2027.
“We didn`t not use that money well and we didn`t not put in place the structures to pay for that and that in fact is the reality we are facing today,” said one council member.