No Property Tax Hike in Proposed Wilkes-Barre Budget, Higher User Fees

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WILKES-BARRE--- Wilkes-Barre Mayor Tony George presented the city’s proposed budget for 2018 on Thursday.

Homeowners won’t have to pay more in property taxes, but they might have to pay more at the meter and when throwing out trash.

Some people Newswatch 16 spoke to said higher parking fees would free up spots on Public Square, others said it could push customers elsewhere.

Christian Switzer set up shop on the square about a year ago. He said customers at City Market and Café are constantly complaining about how long it takes to find a spot.

“Pretty much five days a week, Monday through Friday. Saturday and Sunday it's a little bit lighter but yeah, it's definitely a struggle,” Switzer said.

In the city’s proposed spending plan, officials hope to free up space by doubling parking fees from $1 an hour to $2. This way, it's cheaper to park in a garage for longer periods of time and people can feed the meter for in and out stops.

“If you have people constantly coming and going there's going to be more money coming in and being circulated. That's what we need down here,” James Cunningham, who works in downtown, said.

“I think it actually might push more people to go back to Kingston or surrounding areas where they don't have to pay for parking if people are against it. But if people are going to come downtown, they're going to come downtown,” Switzer said.

If meter use stays the same, the hike should raise about $500,000 for the city.

“It's financial stability throughout my term and terms to come. We have to be able to pay our bills, by doing this we'll be able to pay our bills,” Mayor George said.

The proposed budget also plans on collecting money by swapping out the $2 blue garbage bags for stickers at $2.50 each.

“I've lived in Wilkes-Barre my whole life and I've lived in Kingston as well and the stickers idea, I think, is a little bit more cost effective than the blue Wilkes-Barre trash bags,” Wilkes-Barre resident Eric Drevitch said.

The proposed plan has no raises for city employees, except police officers, whose union already negotiated a three percent raise.

“We want to hold the line on any salary increases and hope that the unions also understand that as well. It's been very tight and we're asking the union's consideration but it's something we have to do,” City Administrator Ted Wampole said.

Next, city council will hold a public hearing on the proposed budget, where the public can raise their issues.

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