Wilkes-Barre proposes 2018 budget
WILKES-BARRE (WOLF) -- Wilkes-Barre residents will not see a property tax increase for the 2018 year, but the budget freezes wages for most of the city employees to help balance the $49.2 million dollar spending plan.
"Restructuring helped quite a bit. That was the key factor. We would be facing $30 million tax increase right now if we didn't restructure, absolutely, absolutely, probably more than that," said city councilman Mike Belusko.
The budget also includes a new garbage bag program, eliminating the blue bags and requiring a $2.50 sticker to be placed on all bags, a fifty-cent increase.
There are also increases in parking - metered parking will see an increase from one dollar to two.
"They should be happy that there's no property tax increase. What we did do what put a 'use fee' in. If you use a garbage bag, you pay for it. If you use a parking meter, you pay the additional dollar per hour," said Mayor Tony George.
"Parking spots are taken all the time. People that easily feed the dollar an hour into the meter and are there for a long term," said Belusko.
Pension payments and a six percent increase in healthcare costs contributed to rising expenses for Wilkes-Barre.
"We have a surplus of roughly around $500,000 dollars, which isn't nearly enough, but that's all we have," said George.
City officials say they will be paying off the debt until 2039 through already established taxes. They say the debt payment now is at a stable rate the city can manage.
"The debt will go on longer... but it will be obtainable, payable, that it's not going to go up and back down, up and back down," said Belusko.
The budget is not yet set in stone. There will be a public hearing next week, and city council has until mid-December to finalize it.
Meanwhile, a two percent tax increase has been proposed for Luzerne County residents, County Manager David Pedri announced.