The 11.3% property tax hike in the Lackawanna County commissioners’ new 2020 budget is a textbook example of what happens when you treat essential things as optional.
Every can you kick down the road eventually kicks back.
As detailed in Times-Tribune Staff Writer Borys Krawczeniuk’s front-page story today, commissioners woefully shorted the pension fund, allocating zero dollars in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2017 and 2018. Over most of that time, the minimum annual contribution recommended by the actuary was $2.478 million.
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The current budget, passed by the previous Misadministration, contributes a meager $500,000 to the pension fund, which Commissioner Jerry Notarianni says is not enough. He’s right, but Commissioners Debi Domenick and Chris Chermak balked at the size of the tax hike, and may not vote for it.
Politically, tax increases are never popular, but if you need a hike, the first year of your administration is the time to do it. It gives voters four years to forget and affords you the space to make a case for re-election. Another, well-worn way of selling a tax hike is floating a big number (11.3%) and enacting a smaller number (6.3%?). That way, you can play the hero by “working hard” to soften the blow.
Any tax increase the commissioners settle on is bound to be unfair, because we haven’t had a countywide property reassessment since the late 1960s. If a tax hike is essential, so is reassessment. The increase should not be passed without a firm, demonstrable commitment to reassessment.
Commissioners who continue to ignore this basic civic duty do so at their electoral peril. Voters kick back, too. Ask the previous Misadministration.