I wanted to write this letter to address the recent article in the paper about bullying and the current state of the Luzerne County Council. I first want to address the ordinance to extend the deadline to pay county taxes at face value without a 10% late payment penalty until Dec. 31 and why I voted no.
Here is my rationale. We first extended this deadline from June to August and I was in complete support of that to help our residents during a tough time. Currently, 84% of Luzerne county residents have paid their taxes with about 2 weeks left until the Aug. 18 deadline. The county every year receives on average 92% of county taxes. So, as you can see, we are almost to our yearly average. By extending this deadline, the county would be estimated to lose nearly $1 million dollars in revenue. The county is still severely in debt and have a yearly obligation to pay down that debt. I thank all county residents for their commitment to paying their county taxes on time.
As you know the county had a $3.1 million surplus for 2019. That is because of the dedicated work of all the county employees. I was so ecstatic when I first heard that information. So, what does this have to do with the county tax deadline mentioned above? Between the surplus and the money we will receive from the late tax penalty ($1 million), there is no way we can have a tax increase next year (or no way I would support one).
That is why I voted to not extend the deadline. Why penalize the whole county and those that paid on time? We now have enough revenue (in my eyes) to balance the budget and not increase taxes for 2021. For a county in debt, with a huge debt service bill each year, to not raise taxes is a huge accomplishment for all County Council, the administration and you, the people of Luzerne County.
Now I want to address the recent article on bullying amongst certain council members. It’s sad to see the way some are acting. I encourage a difference of opinions on council. Differences of opinions are inevitable and evidence that democracy is hard at work. There is a difference between arguing respectfully and throwing insults at colleagues when you disagree. With an 11-person council there will always be a difference of opinions, but the key is to respectfully work together to find a solution.
As a public figure I am always receiving messages from constituents asking questions and asking why I voted a certain way. I encourage that. I am here for you. The messages I have received this year have been full of insults and threats. That is happening because one council member does the same thing when he doesn’t get his way. As a 28-year-old and one of the younger members of council, all I am asking for is civility. Stop the insults. Stop the trolling. Let’s work together to continue Luzerne County on the path that it is on.
Being a councilman is my greatest honor and to me it means more than sitting at a meeting and voting. I am out in the community every night building a better tomorrow whether it be my work with those in recovery, or meeting with constituents to discuss my thoughts and our great progress. I encourage all of you to reach out to me to talk at any time. I had job offers to leave the county after school, but I wanted to stay here and build a better tomorrow and we are doing just that.
I hope you all are safe and healthy during these tough times. Hang in there.
Luzerne County Councilman