Hazleton Council Approves Amended Budget

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HAZLETON -- After weeks of battling over the proposed budget, Hazleton now has an approved amended spending plan for 2013.

City council voted for a property tax increase of 20%, which is a lot lower than the original proposal: an 83% increase.

This means a homeowner with a house worth $100,000 will pay an extra $57 a year in taxes.

“It`s a working budget, things can be changed,” said council president Jim Perry. “Never happy for anybody, but the amount of millage increase is minimal compared to what it was.”

While the amended budget still needs a final vote, proposed $8.9 million budget was shaved down by council to $8.2 million.

Cuts were made by reducing the budgets of city departments, including police and fire.

“All we`re doing is not putting cops on the street and that increases crime. Don`t put firemen on the street, increases your problems at home, whether it`s a co call or a fire or an accident, so all you`re doing is punishing the tax payers by not giving them the services they deserve,” said David Fatule, the president of the fire fighters union.

Pay freezes were also ordered by council for city department heads, keeping their salaries at 2012 levels.

Council said it was able to find money through additional revenues.

“The revenue that we had from the storm sewer fee was a half million dollars,” said Perry.  “We`re taking over the parking authority which we think it additional revenue, so that`s one of the two areas that we`re looking at.”

Even with a lower tax increase, not every resident at the meeting was sold on the budget.

“There are things that can be reduced, they just cut police salary, they just cut fire, but there are areas that can be addressed and they didn`t,” said Grace Cuozzo, a resident.

Council hopes to hold a special meeting on Monday, Dec. 31 to take a final vote on the amended budget.