Hazleton Council Approves A Budget

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HAZLETON -- After days of confusion, Hazleton council members passed a 2013 budget Thursday night.

The city has been without a definite budget since the first of the year. The mayor thought his plan was in place with an 83 percent property tax increase, while council members thought their plan was in place with a 23 percent property tax hike.

"If this kind of so-called government continues, our hometown will be in even worse shape than it is now," said Sylvia Thomas of Hazleton who attended the council meeting.

"You don't have a copy available for the public? How are you going to vote on one if you don't have it in front of you?" asked Grace Cuozzo of Hazleton, when she learned council members planned to approve a budget.

After hearing from the public, Hazleton city council members passed a budget for 2013.

The $8.6 million plan calls for a 45 percent property tax hike, which amounts to about $110 more a year for the average homeowner in the city.

The budget was a compromise between council members and the mayor.

It cuts the police department budget by $125,000 and the fire department budget by $75,000.

Still, leaders of those departments said they will not be cutting staff.

"There will be no firefighters laid off, I do not see how we as a city, as department heads, we can tell the people in the city we're going to lay off firefighters or police or DPW workers. We're short staffed the way it is and I think we do a great job and I don't see how any cuts can be made," said Fire Chief Donald Leshko.

The mayor said he will sign the approved budget.