LEHIGH COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
In a party-line 6–3 vote, Lehigh County Commissioners Nov. 14 overturned the administration’s Oct. 31 veto of the Lehigh County 2019 budget.
Democrat Commissioners Dan Hartzell, Amy Zanelli and Geoff Brace voted against the amendment which reduces the tax rate for Lehigh County citizens for 2019.
The action effectively put to rest the disagreement about what the millage rate will be for 2019. The commissioners approved a 3.64 millage rate marked down from 3.79 mils Lehigh County Executive Phillips Armstrong wanted.
The meeting had a large turnout by the public. The hearing room was almost completely full. About 38 residents and several other journalists and government staff members attended. The residents were mostly in support of defeating the administration’s proposed tax increase.
Allentown resident Timothy Ramos’ remarks resonated especially with the majority of the crowd.
“I purchased my home three years ago,” Ramos said, describing himself as a blue-collar truck driver.
He described an encounter with what he said was an 80-year man in Allentown who said he had to work to pay his tax bills.
“At what point does my property become mine?” Ramos asked. His rhetorical question drew applause from the audience.
Joe Hilliard attacked the administration’s budget for using what he called “fear tactics” in suggesting the lower millage rate might lead to a downgrading of the county’s credit rating. He attacked the administration’s choice of public finance advisor.
“I wouldn’t trust them to advise my neighbor on an automobile transaction,” Hilliard said.
Others thought the commissioners were shortsighted and setting residents up for even higher taxes in future years.
Upper Milford Township’s Dr. J. Allen said the commissioners’ budget is “disingenuous. There is no downside to go with the county executive’s budget.”
Also supporting Armstrong’s budget was Upper Milford Township Supervisor Joyce Moore, who is a financial manager. “It breaks my heart to think people can be so shortsighted,” Moore said.