Mayor: No Tax Increase For Easton in 2013

Easton Mayor Sal Panto previews city's 2013 budget, discusses parking changes.

Easton's proposed 2013 budget keeps all major taxes and fees at the same level, Mayor Sal Panto told city council Monday night.

Next year will see the city making and spending $31.1 million, the mayor said, without increasing property taxes, earned income taxes, wastewater fees or garbage bills. 

In order to fund the budget, the mayor is recommending a $2-per-month "billing charge" on all trash and wastewater bills, although he hopes to have senior citizens exempted from this charge.

And in order to pay for the programs run out of the Greater Easton Development Charge, the city will look to do something it talked about last year at budget time: increase parking fees.

Panto's recommendation calls for Downtown parking meters to go from 50 cents an hour to 75 cents an hour. He's also proposing extending the hours of operation for meters to 8 p.m., and enforcing the meters in Centre Square and to the south from noon to 5 p.m. on Sundays.

In addition, the city will install new meters that can take credit cards, for use at the public lot on S. Third Street.

City Administrator Glenn Steckman said it's not clear when these new meters will begin paying for themselves. 

But the mayor said the "number one complaint" he gets about meters is that they don't allow credit or debit cards.

Will they be cheaper than the similar meters in Bethlehem, a reporter asked following the meeting.

"We'd like to think we do everything better than Bethlehem," Steckman responded.

It was a slightly more positive budget preview than in years past. Two years ago, Panto warned of an "atrocious" 2012. 

"There are signs of improvement, but they are slow and steady," he said Monday.

Those signs include more revenue from table gaming at the Sands Casino -- projected at $700,000 in 2013 -- more money from the business privilege tax -- a projected $625,000 next year -- and increased revenue from the city's admisson tax, which the mayor put at $450,000 in 2013.

Panto added the city is on track to have its bond rating raised again. In 2010, Standard & Poor's upped Easton's rating from BBB+ to A minus.

The mayor argued it's things like the bond rating that show Easton improving at a time when other cities are struggling.

"Recent history is peppered with an alarming number of citywide bankruptcies. That is not Easton," he said. 

As he said last week during his report on the city's audit, Easton is still weighed down by its pension costs. 

Earlier this year, council approved a "commuter tax" to help pay its pension costs. The tax was actually an increase on earned income for residents who work, but do not live, in the city.

But that money will only cover $1.3 million of the $1.8 million Easton needs for pension costs next year. On Monday, Panto made the case again for a larger coalition to address the issue with the state Legislature, calling the pension system "outdated, broken and unfair."

The city will hold hearings on the budget Oct. 16 and 23 at 6 p.m. at city hall.

bill frome October 02, 2012 at 06:18 PM
Pushing the can down the street is not leadership nor is raising taxes to cover a bloated payroll and expenses. Reducing costs is what needs to be done. Making the cuts no one wants to have to do is leadership
Amend October 03, 2012 at 01:27 AM
@Bill- what cuts are you referring to?


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