The Lehigh County Board of Commissioners approved the 2019 budget during Wednesday night's meeting. The budget's most notable feature is that it does not contain a tax increase, against the wishes of county executive Phil Armstrong who had originally proposed one.
The vote was 6-3 along party lines, with Republicans - Nathan Brown, Percy Dougherty, Marc Grammes, Amanda Holt, Marty Nothstein and Brad Osborne - voting for the budget and against the tax increase, and Democrats - Geoff Brace, Dan Hartzell and Amy Zanelli - voting against the budget and for the tax increase.
Armstrong said the proposed 4.1 percent tax increase was needed to increase revenue and to avoid a higher tax increase next year. During the commissioners' Oct. 10 meeting, Armstrong said the county would face a financial deficit by 2021 unless taxes were raised.
During that same meeting, Osborne presented an amendment to reduce the tax increase by more than $4.4 million, or 4.1 percent, to hold the line on taxes. After a vigorous debate, it was approved along the same party lines as Wednesday's night vote.
No comments about the budget were issued during the meeting.
In other news, commissioners approved three professional services agreements with companies that aide the public defender's office, according to Osborne. All three bills were on first reading.
One agreement was with Capparell Court Reporting to provide court reporting services. A second agreement - with Frank Dattilio - focuses on providing psychological examination of clients in preparation for legal proceedings to consult with legal counsel. Dattilio will also be called to testify as an expert witness in the area of clinical and forensic psychology and related fields. The final agreement is with Court Consultation Services of Mid-Hudson to provide capital homicide mitigation for clients.