Luzerne County Manager Robert Lawton met with the county's outside tax claim operator Wednesday to discuss conflicting figures on 2013 revenue projections.
John Rodgers, owner of Northeast Revenue Service LLC, said Lawton's proposed budget may overstate back-tax revenue by $3 million. Northeast Revenue has been collecting county back taxes since past commissioners opted to outsource the work in April 2010.
Lawton has sent county council a report explaining why he believes the administration's figures are accurate.
County Councilman Rick Morelli said he sent an email to Lawton urging him to meet with the company to discuss the projection differences. Morelli said he doesn't want to pass a budget off by $2.5 million or more.
I'm not trying to take sides. All I care about are accurate numbers, he said. I'm hoping Bob is right and am confident he'll do what's necessary if he's not.
Lawton said he didn't receive any information convincing him the administration's projections are off. Financial estimates were exchanged, and another meeting was planned for Friday.
Lawton said he would propose further cuts to council to make up revenue shortfalls if his projections are too high.
I have confidence in my finance folks, but we're checking it all out. I certainly would not want to miss anything, Lawton said.
Rodgers said accuracy is his only motive for raising the issue. Council and the administration will expect the company to meet the revenue budgeted for back taxes and should set an attainable target, he said.
Council Chairman Tim McGinley supports the meetings, saying council must have verified revenue figures before Monday's public hearing.
I'm glad they're talking and reviewing the numbers to see if there are any issues and problems. We must have a solid number for the budget, he said.
Lawton's proposed $122.25 million budget does not raise taxes. He plans to eliminate 69 vacant and filled county jobs as part of a rightsizing effort.
The 11-member council must adopt a budget between Nov. 15 and Dec. 15. The charter allows council to alter any allocations without exceeding the proposed overall total revenue amount. Council members have said they won't support a tax increase.
Morelli said the budget is a pressing matter because council has only 45 days before the approval deadline. He has requested additional budget meetings, though none have been scheduled to date.
Luzerne County Council will publicly discuss the budget at 6 p.m. Monday in the county's Emergency Management Agency building on Water Street, Wilkes-Barre.