timesleader.com

Cuts at top, tax on commuters offered

November 9, 2012

WILKES-BARRE – Administrative cuts proposed by Councilman Tony George would spare many lower-paid workers from layoffs, save the city $1.1 million and lower the take hike proposed by the mayor in next year's balanced budget.


George also recommended a tax on commuters who work in the city and a county-wide sales tax. He also called for selling the Wilkes-Barre Municipal Golf Course to raise much-needed revenue and continue providing services to residents, but legal hurdles likely would tie up a sale before the end of the year.


In personnel cuts, he targeted mainly department heads and management positions and called for not filling spots of people who are retiring and reassigning some employees to lower paying jobs in a proposal provided to fellow council members and Mayor Tom Leighton.


Most services are provided by the rank and file, George said Thursday.


He argued city residents would feel the effects of cuts at that level more so than they would if city hall and management jobs were eliminated.


With the cuts the administration would have to work harder, he said.


Property owners would still see a tax increase, but not the 30 mills sought by the mayor in his $45.8 million budget for 2013.


The former police chief listed the following cuts:


• Police Department: Deputy police chief at $75,000 and captain at $68,000.


• Fire Department: Four assistant chiefs at $71,000 each


• Public Works: Assistant to the director at $55,000 and deputy director $75,000.


• City Hall: IT director at $71,000, purchasing director at $62,000, clerk in the controller's office at $49,000, assessor at $36,000 and a position in the tax office at $48,000.


• Parking Enforcement: Three attendants at $27,000 each, supervisor at $30,000.


His plan included the elimination of the training bonus for police and fire for a savings of $208,500.


Selling the golf course may pose legal hurdles. Land donated for recreational use may be used only for that purpose. However, if the land does not benefit most of the city residents, a petition can be filed in Orphans Court to sell the property possibly to one of the area's gambling casinos, George explained.


I think fire and police are more important than playing a round of golf, he said.


He added that he has support from the four other council members on the sale.


George said the mayor told him some of this stuff is contractual and can't be done. But something has to be done and soon because a budget has to be adopted by Dec. 31.


We don't have much time left, George said.