Income Tax, sewer rates to rise as part of approved 2019 City of Erie budget
ERIE, P.A (WICU-WSEE/CW) – In a five to one vote, Erie City Council approved the 2019 general fund budget, worth $81.5 million but there are some hits city taxpayers will have to take.
Taxpayers living in the city can expect an income tax hike from 1.18 to 1.65 percent and a sewer rate increase of $32.60 annually. Though in the process, the council was able to avoid a garbage rate and real estate tax hike.
Initially, Mayor Joe Schember proposed a 1.75 percent income tax raise as well as a rise in the garbage rates.
Erie City Councilman Jim Winarski says council undercut their withholding moves by taking $500,000 out of their reserve fund. The move, along with other cuts helped the city to balance their budget for the year.
Though Winarski said taking the reserve funds is not something a “financially stable city” would do.
This budget was the first in Mayor Schember’s administration and he shared some concern on the council's decision to withhold those rate increases.
“I really believe from a financial point of view, the budget we originally presented was the best possible budget, but they weren't totally comfortable with that.” Schember said
“I was definitely listening, and I think we came up a very good compromise."
Despite his concern, he believes this budget is a “big step forward” and next year’s budget should be simpler to handle.
Schember says the city’s next step is to work with consultants as part of the state’s Early Intervention Plan, which is almost completely covered by the state. Consultants will review different issues within the city and make financial recommendations.
Though there were some differences of opinion, Councilman Winarski says he’s excited to work with Schember on improving the budget next year.
“We're going to have a good council up there.” Winarski said “We're going to work together and we'll work with the administration and try to do what we can to curb expenses and gain some more revenues."
Winarski told us the city is exploring a future income tax on those who work in the city but live outside of it, though talks on that will not happen until next year.
Councilman Liz Allen was the lone no vote. She had previously shared her disapproval of a three-percent salary increase for non-union city workers and called for a freeze on those salaries until performance reviews were installed. The increase will total $140,000.
Mayor Schember maintains the city will look to implement performance reviews next year.