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Bid to ease taxes through surplus fails

A Lackawanna councilwoman Tuesday was rebuffed in her second attempt to persuade her fellow lawmakers to support reducing the city's $6 million surplus as a means to provide tax relief in next year's budget.

First Ward Councilwoman Andrea Haxton's motion to pass a resolution she crafted -- calling on the Council to encourage Mayor Norman L. Polanski to reduce the size of next year's fund balance -- did not win a second, so it died before the Council could vote on it.

Council President Charles Jaworski said it made more sense for the city to seek to pay down its debts before offering a tax cut, especially when the financial conditions of both the state and the federal governments are so precarious.

"In the future, we do not know what our state aid will be. We know what it is this year, [but] we don't know what it [will be] next year," Jaworski said. "We do not know right now what our sales tax [revenues] will be. We know it's definitely a decrease."

But Haxton insisted that there was nothing preventing the city from simultaneously reducing its debt load and giving city taxpayers a break.

"In this day and age, people need a couple of extra dollars -- and it wouldn't amount to that much per taxpayer -- but it would help in their everyday living. I think it's a shame that you fellows won't go along with it," Haxton said.

"Shame on you all. Everything I try to do for the good of the community, you go after me," she added, as the dialogue between her and fellow lawmakers grew more heated.

Haxton said the current $6 million surplus is 28 percent of the city's $21 million operating budget and is far in excess of what the state recommends for a fund balance.

The lone female member of the Council had, at the legislative body's last meeting Feb. 2, tried to get her colleagues to support the idea of reducing the surplus, but she had not previously introduced her plan in the form of a resolution on which the Council could vote.

Second Ward Councilman Geoffrey Szymanski, who presided over that meeting in Jaworski's absence, on Tuesday reiterated his position that the city was not in the same position as the federal government to craft a stimulus package for taxpayers. "Our national leaders have the ability to print money, and we do not. The state of Kansas is not handing back entitled-income money. California [on Tuesday] laid off 28,000 workers," Szymanski said.

"Our governor declared that we are facing a $48 billion deficit, . . . and it would be irresponsible for us to act inappropriately at this time."

e-mail: hmcneil@buffnews.com

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