Lackawanna Mayor Geoffrey M. Szymanski is proposing a $24.48 million budget for 2013-14 that would lower the tax rate 14 percent for businesses and by less than 1 percent for homeowners.
The plan would increase city spending by nearly $900,000 over the current budget, and it includes adding a deputy chief for the Fire Department, in place of a captain; adding an account clerk typist in the city’s purchasing office; and adding a temporary consultant who would be charged with training a new commissioner of public works.
The spending plan, submitted Friday to members of the City Council, uses $1.4 million of the city’s fund balance.
“I don’t know any community that isn’t doing that right now,” said Szymanski. “Our state aid hasn’t gone back up. We’re all buried.”
City officials anticipate about $6.3 million in general state aid, plus an additional $700,000 in grants and other state and federal revenues. The total tax levy in the proposed budget is $9.26 million, an increase of about $700,000.
The budget keeps in place a tax burden shift enacted last year by the Council aimed at easing business taxes and spurring commercial growth in the city.
The homestead tax rate would be $13.80 per $,1,000 of assessed value, down from the current $13.88 per $1,000 ; the nonhomestead rate would drop to $28.91 per $1,000 from the current $32.97 per $1,000. “I would like to see Lackawanna become more business-friendly,” Szymanski said.
The mayor’s budget last year set off a power struggle with the Council, which rejected several of his spending proposals and slashed the salaries of the city comptroller and public works commissioner.
The comptroller’s salary ultimately was restored, but the mayor ended up suing the Council over the public works post. The case has yet to be resolved.
Szymanski included in the 2013-14 proposal a salary of $60,000 for a commissioner of public works, as well as a budget line for a consultant trainer who would make $30,000 – the same salary made by longtime part-time Public Works Commissioner Thomas Love before the Council cut his pay to $10,000. Love then left the position and the mayor sued, arguing that the Council was attempting to usurp his executive powers to hire and fire department heads.
Szymanski acknowledged that he hoped to bring Love back to train his replacement. The temporary consultant’s post “would only be advisory to me and the commissioner” and would have no oversight over public works employees.