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Lackawanna Council approves $23.9 million budget with tax cuts

The Lackawanna City Council on Monday approved a 2013-14 budget that would spend $560,000 less than what Mayor Geoffrey M. Szymanski proposed.

Council members voted, 4-1, in favor of a $23.9 million budget that would cut residential property taxes by less than 1 percent and reduce commercial property taxes by 14 percent.

The Council rejected the mayor’s efforts to include a new position for an account clerk/typist for the city’s Purchasing Department.

And instead of applying $1.4 million in fund balance toward the new spending plan, as the mayor proposed, Council members appropriated $943,000.

It was the second year in a row the Council shot down many of the mayor’s proposed spending increases.

Some Council members said that if they had not opposed Szymanski’s efforts in 2012 to hire several workers, the city would be close to running a deficit already.

“Our city is in trouble financially. We’re trying to do what is in the best interests of the taxpayers while still providing the services they’ve come to rely on,” said 4th Ward Councilman Keith E. Lewis.

Council President Henry R. Pirowski Jr. labeled the mayor’s proposals “wishful thinking” and said the Council was “doing the prudent thing by adopting a fiscally responsible budget.”

When he released his budget last month, Szymanski said the city was not in dire financial condition and defended his spending plan as bare bones.

Second Ward Councilwoman Annette Iafallo cast the lone vote against the budget, but she did not explain her opposition during the meeting and could not be reached to comment later.

Szymanski has 10 days to review the Council’s changes and decide whether to veto them. The five-member Council can override the vetoes, as long as four members vote to do so.

Also Monday, Council members unanimously approved an ordinance authorizing $3 million in bonds to pay for the purchase of new garbage totes, street paving and bridge improvements.

The totes, considered a key element in efforts to control a growing rodent problem, are expected to cost about $425,000. Street paving is estimated at $1.25 million, and repairs to a bridge on Ridge Road near Rosary Street that has been flagged multiple times by the state are pegged at $1.3 million.