A Buffalo News editorial criticized cities, towns and school districts for requesting that the 8th percent of the county sales tax be shared. The editorial also implied some local officials want to gain higher revenues without a willingness to "take the heat." Let's look at some facts regarding the City of Lackawanna.
County property taxes for Lackawanna taxpayers have skyrocketed over the last 10 years, while county services have not expanded or improved. From 1983 to 1987, our county taxes went up 300 percent. From 1988 to the present, there was another 53 percent increase. During those years Lackawanna lost more than $5 million in revenue when Bethlehem Steel decided to end steel-making here and received a massive reduction in its assessment.
During those years, I reduced the city payroll nearly 40 percent, more than any mayor in the history of Lackawanna. Yet The News on several occasions has charged that the city is still overstaffed. From 1983 to 1987, when county taxes were dramatically increasing, I reduced the city tax rate each year. This was done by eliminating jobs, by better management and by greater productivity from our work force. When you eliminate 125 jobs in a city the size of Lackawanna, I think you have shown a willingness to "take the heat."
Lackawanna's share of the 8th percent sales tax, if it were distributed using the current formula, would be about $1.3 million to the city and school district combined. The $900,000 the city would receive would certainly ease the burden on businesses and encourage new investment. This type or economic activity would expand our tax base, relieve the burden to those on fixed incomes, and create a genuine downward trend in taxes.
I have been a proponent of industrial development of the vacant Bethlehem property, including solid-waste industries, if they can prove to have no negative environmental impact. I know economic expansion will lower property taxes and that has been the goal of my administration. An important incentive to locate in Lackawanna is reasonable property taxes.
A majority of the City Council voted to support industrial development by urging the regulatory agencies to promptly complete a thorough review of a new and controversial industry. This shows Lackawanna wants to solve its fiscal problems with growth, not higher taxes. We do not want to be dependent on any other level of government, but we do not want to be deprived of our fair share of sales tax revenues and be forced to shift the burden to local property taxes. Lackawanna has sacrificed, my administration has made tough choices, and I think we deserve our fair share.
THOMAS E. RADICH
Mayor, City of Lackawanna