Last updated: January 26. 2014 11:22PM - 2655 Views
By - jandes@timesleader.com

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A proposed settlement to keep using 69 elected Luzerne County tax collectors is on Tuesday’s County Council agenda, though details aren’t expected until the meeting.

A deciding factor may be whether the collectors are willing to accept deeper payment cuts that would save at least as much as the switch to in-house collection.

The elected collectors received $3.50 for both paid and unpaid county tax bills but had agreed to pay cuts saving an estimated $125,000. The county Treasurer’s Office says it will save at least $240,000 and generate $78,500 in new revenue taking over collection.

County senior auditor Brian Swetz publicly urged council last week to make a decision soon so delays in the mailing of tax bills don’t hurt cash flow.

• Council will meet at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in the council meeting room at the courthouse in Wilkes-Barre.

Voting agenda items also include three proposed new collective-bargaining agreements with union workers at Children and Youth, Aging and Mental Health and confirmation of county Manager Robert Lawton’s nominations for two division head posts — Swetz for budget/finance and David Schwille for human services.

• Council also will vote on proposed budget amendments. In addition to Council Vice Chairman Edward Brominski’s amendments suggested last week, Councilwoman Kathy Dobash has proposed two options: cancel the 8-percent hike by reducing each division’s expenses by 8 percent or partially reduce the tax hike by cutting all divisions by 5 percent. Councilman Stephen J. Urban also is proposing various cuts and additional revenue to erase the 8-percent hike.

• Due to recent layoffs, the county Register of Wills Office is encouraging attorneys and family members to schedule appointments if they are filing paperwork for a new estate, said county Judicial Services and Records Division Head Joan Hoggarth.

The office won’t turn away filers without appointments, but the scheduling will allow the office to better serve the public and reduce wait times, Hoggarth said.

Appointments can be made at 570-825-1672 or 1670.

• A request for proposals has been posted on the county website (www.luzernecounty.org) seeking prices from an individual or firm to record and transcribe council voting meetings. Council members wanted to know the cost before considering Dobash’s suggestion to revive verbatim meeting minutes.

• In response to council inquiries, Lawton said around 20 employees take home county vehicles — four in road and bridge; the emergency management and 911 directors; nine detectives and the chief assistant district attorney; the sheriff and two sheriff deputies stationed in the Hazleton area.

Lawton said the number “combats the notion” the county hands out vehicles “like water.”

The county has about 210 vehicles on its insurance policy, he said.

• A large batch of emails exchanged between council members from the end of November through Jan. 21 was recently posted under the Right-to-Know Law section of the county website.

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