Salisbury Press

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PRESS PHOTOS BY DANIEL MINGUEZ Commissioner Brad Osborne argues for a PRESS PHOTOS BY DANIEL MINGUEZ Commissioner Brad Osborne argues for a "measured approach" to slow the growth of government spending.
Commissioner Vic Mazziotti introduces two amendments aimed at reducing revenue and spending of the county government by $5 million. Commissioner Vic Mazziotti introduces two amendments aimed at reducing revenue and spending of the county government by $5 million.

LEHIGH COUNTY COMMISSIONERS Two budget amendments proposed to lower taxes

Wednesday, October 17, 2012 by DANIEL MINGUEZ Special to The Press in Local News

Lehigh County Commissioners put forth two competing budget amendments aimed at lowering real estate taxes for the 2013 fiscal year at their Oct. 8 meeting.

The first amendment sponsored by Commissioners Scott Ott, Thomas Creighton, Lisa Scheller, Michael Schware and Vic Mazziotti would reduce the $6.5 million tax credit proposed by the county executive by $5 million, and reduce the millage rate to decrease real estate tax revenue by $5 million instead.

The same commissioners sponsored a second amendment to reduce $5 million of expenses from the personnel line items of the operating fund.

Mazziotti argued for the amendment saying, "the object isn't to see cuts in specific areas, the objective is to give maximum flexibility to the administration to determine where that $5 million cut will occur."

The competing amendment sponsored by Commissioner Brad Osborne would eliminate the $6.5 million tax credit entirely, reduce the millage rate on real estate taxes such that revenue would be reduced by roughly $3 million, and keep an additional $3.5 million in the stabilization fund. The amendment drew support from Commissioners Percy Dougherty, David Jones and Daniel McCarthy.

Dougherty called the amendment a "measured approach" in comparison with its competitor which he said "is far too much." Mazziotti called the amendment "irresponsible" as it does not reduce spending along with reducing revenue.

The votes to adopt the amendments fell down party lines with sponsors of the first amendment passing its adoption in a 5 to 4 vote, and the second amendment losing in a vote 4 in favor 5 against.

McCarthy attempted to pursue two alternative amendments to eliminate the $6.5 million tax credit that included moving $6.5 million to the pension fund. Both of his amendments were knocked down 7 to 2.

With the budget amended, a final vote will be cast for adoption at the Oct. 24 commissioners meeting.

If the budget passes, it will go to the county executive who may veto it, in which case a majority vote of at least six out of nine commissioners will be required to override him and put the budget in place.