Lehigh Valley

Lehigh County Commissioners vote down proposed tax increase

ALLENTOWN, Pa. - Lehigh County Commissioners rejected a tax increase that would have raised roughly $4.4 million at their Wednesday meeting.

The proposed tax increase was part of the 2019 proposed budget. The vote was 6-3, with Commissioners Geoff Brace, Dan Hartzell and Amy Zanelli dissenting.

A tax increase was not a necessity this year, according to County Executive Phil Armstrong. He noted that additional revenue would be required to fund the county in 2021. By doing nothing, Armstrong noted, it will be setting taxpayers up for a much larger increase down the road.

"The numbers just don't work," Armstrong said of balancing future budgets without tax increases. He labeled those who voted against the tax increase as "ignoring the future." For his part, Armstrong said he "could not face the voters" by pretending to not notice the financial shortfalls that await.

Brace warned residents that if the county didn't raise taxes in the 2019 budget, they would be subjected to even higher increases in the 2020 budget.

Zanelli, in voting against the amendment, said she "refused to kick the can down the street." She added that the amendment was nothing more than a "partisan effort" on behalf of Republicans to attract gullible voters.

"I think it's deplorable," Zanelli said of her Republican colleagues' efforts.

Commissioner Brad Osborne, the bill's sponsor, said he "can't support any additional tax increase."

Commissioner Percy Dougherty said the administration's "pay now or pay later" analysis was little more than "scare tactics." The commissioner added he's seen them several times during his career as a commissioner.

In other business, commissioners approved an amendment to pull $30,000 for the "Communities that Care" program. Armstrong, speaking to commissioners prior to the vote, said the program is a good investment for the county as it could help school districts address drug and opioid use in high school. He added most programs deal with drug users once they had a problem, whereas this program would attempt to deter drug use.

The amendment to pull the measure passed 6-3, with Chairman Marty Nothstein, Brace and Zanelli voting against it.


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