Wilkes-Barre’s balance sheet shows $10M surplus at 2018 midpoint

By Jerry Lynott - [email protected]
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WILKES-BARRE — The city maintained a hefty surplus of more than $10 million in its general fund budget halfway through the year, according to a draft of the June financial report.

As of June 30, the city recorded $28.7 million in revenue and $18.7 million in expenses, the report stated. The balance increased from the $9.8 million posted in May.

The city is operating on a $49.4 million balanced budget this year. But in 2019, a $3.5 million deficit looms and the city’s financial hole is expected to grow deeper in the coming years, prompting Mayor Tony George to seek distressed status from the state. That would allow access to resources and programs to stabilize Wilkes-Barre’s finances. The declaration by the state Department of Community and Economic Development is pending.

Property taxes and earned income taxes contributed a combined $17.6 million in revenue for the first six months of the year. On the expense side, salaries and benefits, including pension costs, totaled approximately $14 million, according to the report.

The city has been keeping an eye on the revenue generated by the increased garbage bag and parking meter fees. The higher meter fee of $2 an hour was projected to bring in $1 million for the year. Through the end of June, the city collected $378,334, or approximately 38 percent of the budgeted amount.

Likewise, the city budgeted $1.6 million from the garbage bag fee. As of June 30, it collected $593,892, or 36 percent of what was projected.

Meanwhile, employee overtime has been under-budget for the most part.

But the short-staffed fire department had already exceeded its allotment for the whole year. Through the end of June, firefighting overtime totaled $71,109, or 142 percent of the $50,000 budgeted.

And as of June 30, ambulance personnel overtime was $10,466, or approximately 131 percent of its $8,000 budget for 2018.

The Hollenback Golf Course also was over-budget for overtime, according to the report. Through June 30, that line item totaled $3,807, or 152 percent of the $2,500 budgeted. For the same period, double-time reached $1,165, or 233 percent of the $500 budgeted.

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But future deficits loom, prompting distressed-status request

By Jerry Lynott

[email protected]

Reach Jerry Lynott at 570-991-6120 or on Twitter @TLJerryLynott.

Reach Jerry Lynott at 570-991-6120 or on Twitter @TLJerryLynott.