WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Luzerne County voters will soon have the opportunity to decide if they want to change the county’s form of government. County Council approved a government study commission referendum for the 2024 May Primary Election.
So what does this mean for taxpayers in the county?
Currently, Luzerne County is governed by a home-rule charter form of government That was voted into place after a federal corruption probe in the late 2000s.
But questions have been raised in recent years. “Is it too large?” Namely the 11-member council.
Voters could call for a change at the ballot box.
“I think it’s something good to look at because you always have something in place but it wouldn’t hurt to take a look and see if they could find something better,” said Sugarloaf resident Stephen Falatovich.
Falatovich supports the idea, at the very least, giving voters an opportunity to weigh in on the county’s form of government.
The current home rule charter form has a legislative branch overseen by an 11-member council and an executive branch headed up by the county manager.
The County Council voted eight to three to place a referendum on the April Primary Ballot asking voters to decide if a citizen panel should study the government.
It would then make recommendations on any possible changes, including a new form of government. Council member LeeAnn McDermott supports the referendum.
“Another thing that can be considered is the size of the council. Not saying that anything that would be changed, but it’s something to consider. Maybe it could be a couple less than 11. Personally, I don’t want to go back to the three commissioners, but I do believe that it should be looked at,” said McDermott.
Council member Tim Mcginley voted against the referendum.
“The time frame, 12 years, is really a short time frame for government. I mean it took several years just to find out where all the pieces were. Finally, I think we got it pretty much together. We have a pretty good system going. I think with a little tweaking of the charter and work on some of our issues we would have a very fine form of government,” said McGinley.
Rick Morelli of Sugarloaf was on the original government study commission that recommended the current home rule charter. He does not support the referendum and a possible change.
“Concerned a lot about it. I think it’s a bad decision when you take a look at the past 10 years, they reduced the debt from over $400 million to less than $200 million. The county had no credit rating when the commissioners were in. It’s now an A-plus current rating. It’s a very transparent government,” said Morelli.
Again, the actual wording of the referendum still has to be finalized and voters will have the final say in all of this.