(WBRE/WYOU) — No tax hike for taxpayers in Wilkes-Barre.
That was the word Tuesday from Mayor Tony George. George presented what will be his last budget. He was defeated in his run for re-election in the May primary.
Some are calling this Mayor George’s swan song. He proposed a $52 million budget Tuesday and he says it’s balanced without a tax hike.
“Over the last four years, my administration has increased taxes only once,” George said.
Wilkes-Barre Mayor Tony George says he was able to create a budget for 2020 in large part due to increased business activity in the city.
“Actually we were fortunate with all the new construction of two hotels and the LCTA for next year, it brings us $2 million in fees and permits,” George said.
George also says he was able to hold down the costs for pensions and healthcare, two expenses that traditionally can throw a budget off the tracks. It was also a day for George to pass the financial baton to George Brown.
Brown will take over as mayor in January. He defeated Tony George in the May primary. His platform was based on financial stability for the Diamond City.
“I would love to run the city on a balanced budget. That would be wonderful. I hope that’s what we will be able to do. But I’m limited to what I can say until I see the numbers,” Brown said.
City councilman Tony Brooks was happy to hear no new taxes, but “what I think that’s important in the budget I heard the mayor say there was an increase in earned revenue taxes increase in business in Wilkes-Barre. That is so key to third-class cities. Our key to economic development is new business so we don’t have to raise taxes,” Brooks said.
But for taxpayers like Linda Joseph, it was a great day.
“Of course when there is no property tax increase that’s great because the residents can’t deal with anything else as far as any tax increase. That’s good for any resident,” Joseph said.
Wilkes-Barre City Council has to approve the mayor’s budget and will hold public hearings in the coming weeks. Also incoming mayor George Brown can also rework the budget when he takes office in January and once again City Council will have the final say.
Wilkes-Barre is on the verge of entering Act 47 Distressed status. That would mean that the state would run the city’s finances for the foreseeable future.