Luzerne talks bud­get

The Hazleton Standard-Speaker - - FRONT PAGE - BY ERIC MARK STAFF WRITER Con­tact the writer: emark@cit­i­ 570-821-2117

County coun­cil sched­uled to meet tonight.

WILKES-BARRE — Today will see the first pub­lic dis­cus­sion of pro­posed amend­ments to Luzer ne County’s pro­posed 2018 bud­get.

As of Sun­day, only two of 11 county coun­cil mem­bers, Kathy Do bash and Harry Haas, had submitted pro­posed bud­get amend­ments, ac­cord­ing to coun­cil Chair woman Linda McClosky Houck.

Dis­cus­sion of those amend­ments is on the agenda for coun­cil’s work ses­sion tonight, fol­low­ing coun­cil’ s 6 p.m. vot­ing meet­ing.

The Haas and Dobash amend­ments would re­duce or elim­i­nate the pro­posed 2 per­cent prop­erty tax in­crease in the 2018 bud­get that county Man­ager David Pedri submitted to coun­cil last month. Pedri’s pro­posal also calls for 16 new po­si­tions and a 3 per­cent raise for non-union­ized county em­ploy­ees next year.

Ha as pro­posed a se­ries of amend­ments that would re­duce ex­pen­di­tures for mul­ti­ple county de par tments and save the county slightly more than $1 mil­lion, or about h alf of the $2.1 mil­lion the tax in­crease was pro­jected to gen­er­ate.

Haas’s pro­posed changes in­clude the elim­i­na­tion of two pro­posed new po­si­tions in the pub­lic de­fender’ s of­fice and one of three pro­posed new as­sis­tant district at­tor­ney po­si­tions in the district at­tor­ney’ s of­fice.

He pro­poses line-item ex­pense re­duc­tions in six county de­part­ments: op­er­a­tional ser­vices, courts, cor­rec­tions, the so­lic­i­tor’ s of­fice, the pub­lic de­fender and the district at­tor­ney.

Haas also pro­posed that the county uti­lize a wind- fall from the set­tle­ment of a suit with Lack­awanna County over the sale of a mi­nor league baseball fran­chise to cover one-time ex­penses to­tal­ing $375,000. Those ex­penses in­clude an up­date to the video con­fer­enc­ing sys­tem used by the county’s district courts and safety vests for the Depart­ment of Cor­rec­tions.

Dobash’s pro­posed amend­ments would elim­i­nate all pay in­creases for non-union­ized em­ploy­ees as well as the 16 pro­posed new po­si­tions.

Those changes would elim­i­nate the need for a proper ty tax hike, ac­cord­ing to Dobash.

Coun­cil mem­bers are free to pro­pose bud­get amend­ments right up to the bud­get’ s fi­nal pas­sage on Dec. 12, Houck said. How­ever, she has re­quested that all amend­ments be submitted by the Nov. 28 coun­cil meet­ing to al­low time for dis­cus­sion, she said.

Coun­cil will hold a bud­get work ses­sion on Nov. 21 and a bud­get hear­ing on Dec. 5.

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