Forks Resident Questions Easton Commuter Tax
Easton needs to prosper for other communities to do well, argues Councilman Roger Ruggles. But Forks resident diagrees.
After two weeks of battling over a proposed commuter tax increase in public and the press, the city of Easton and Northampton County made peace Monday night.
That doesn't mean that Easton won't be approving the earned income tax, a 1.75 percent levy aimed at people who work in the city but live elsewhere, a group that includes close to 1,000 county employees.
Joe Cevenka of Forks Township spoke out against the commuter tax.
He said that while some of the tax money would go to things like education "more of our EIT is going to go to pensions that don't benefit us…and that’s frustrating."
But County Executive John Stoffa told City Council that he wants to work with Easton and other municipalities in lowering the pension costs that are the driving force behind the tax increase.
Stoffa suggested a meeting with state legislators to discuss pension reform.
"We've never done that in the history of the years I’ve been in government," he said.
He also suggested that it's time for non-profit entities to pay a portion of the assessed value of their properties.
Stoffa was one of only two people to speak at the meeting, which was attended by more members of the media than members of the public.
Mayor Sal Panto said the situation is frustrating for everyone. He said the city has "pulled itself up by its financial boot straps," yet is still struggling with balancing its budget in a stagnant economy.
"You're not going to see a tax decrease in Easton for 2013," the mayor said, although he acknowledged it had been a goal at one time. "That's not going to happen. I really thought the recession was going to come to an end."
Councilman Roger Ruggles argued that Easton needs to survive for other communities to do well.
"The city itself is the center for the entire commuity. If the city is not a good place, the surrounding communities suffer," Ruggles said.
City officials had initially planned to vote on the tax next Wednesday, but agreed Monday to postpone the vote until the Aug. 8 council meeting. That's at the request of Councilman Ken Brown, who will not be able to attend next week's meeting.