Last updated: February 19. 2013 11:51PM - 307 Views

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HAZLETON – City Council on Thursday night approved a tentative budget for 2013 that would raise real estate taxes 22.9 percent, an increase much less than originally proposed.

They're asking too much of the people of this city, Councilwoman Jean Mope said after a majority of council moved to scale back the tax increase to 3.05 mills, down from 4.3 mills submitted at previous budget meetings. Taxes in 2012 are at 2.48 mills.

A mill equals $1 in tax for every $1,000 of assessed valuation.

City Administrator Steve Hahn said that under the current plan the general fund would be about $8.1 million. He estimated that under the amended plan, which has the support of councilmen James Perry, Keith Bast and Kevin Schadder, taxes on a $100,000 house would increase annually by $57.

Mope, who along with Councilman Jack Mundie voted no on the budget proposals, said the cuts do not go far enough. There were two 3-2 votes on a set of reductions that were outlined by Bast, resulting in council acting to move forward.

It scheduled a meeting for Monday at a time to be determined to adopt the budget.

Besides the general fund, the city has a police department budget of an estimated $4.1 million, a public works budget of $956,957 and $1.7 million for the fire department. Pension expenses are estimated at $4 million.

At the outset of budget discussions in early December, Mayor Joe Yannuzzi forwarded to council a plan that prescribed more than $4.8 million in expenses and an increase of 83 percent in property taxes.

His fiscal plan was rejected twice before and was mentioned again Thursday when Bast referred to the amendments he proposed as making reductions in the mayor's budget.

Council also enacted a real estate transfer tax of 1 percent, an earned income tax of 2.35 percent, a per capita tax of $10 and a resident tax of $5.

Earned income is expected to produce $1.4 million, and real estate levies, $4.04 million.

Overall, Hahn, in summarizing tax revenues, said the city's annual collection rate for real estate is 91 percent.

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