Lackawanna Commissioners Won’t Review Tax Increase

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The new Lackawanna County commissioners announced Wednesday they will not reopen the 2012 budget.

The decision comes after taxpayers called on the new administration two weeks ago to lower the 38 percent increase in property taxes.

The people of Lackawanna County are facing a big property tax increase this year, and despite the calls to make changes to the current budget and bring taxes down, the new Lackawanna County commissioners said it simply can’t be done.

It was a repeat crowd at the second Lackawanna County commissioner’s meeting of the year. The same people who came two weeks earlier to ask the commissioners to reopen the 2012 budget, spoke up again, and waited for the answer.

“So our question is simple. Are you going to reopen the budget and are you going to reduce the taxes back to the 2011 level?” asked Ray Nearhood of Scranton.

The commissioners have the right to make changes to the previous administration’s budget before February 15, but the commissioners announced they will not reopen the budget and will not change the 38 percent hike in property taxes that takes effect this year.

“When you look at the budget and the budget situation that we face, we faced it. And we talked a great length about that situation. And when you’re facing a $19 million shortfall, we didn’t just say were going to do the easy thing and raise taxes to cover it,” said Commissioner Corey O’Brien.

The commissioners said the tax hike is the only way to raise enough revenue to cover expenses for the year, so the budget will have to stand as it is.

The people who showed up at the meeting weren’t surprised by the decision but disappointed since they said the reality of the county tax hike is drawing closer.

“Wait and see the reaction when people get a doubled bill, because we went from 26 mils, to 36 mils, now we’re at 55 mils. That’s a lot of money, and that’s just your county tax,” said Laureen Cummings of Old Forge.

The 38 percent tax increase that takes effect this year is the first property tax increase in several years in Lackawanna County. The commissioners said Wednesday morning that the 25 days they have to change the budget isn’t nearly enough time to be able to find enough savings to lower the increase.