SUNBURY — For the 11th consecutive year, a Northumberland County judge has granted the City of Shamokin permission to maintain a 35-mill real estate tax, while also approving for the fifth year in a row a 2-percent earned income tax.
Both measures will generate much-needed revenue for the local government that has been under the state’s Act 47 program for fiscally distressed municipalities since February 2015.
Northumberland County Judge Hugh Jones granted the city’s petition Tuesday morning to maintain the tax rates following brief testimony by city administrator Robert Slaby and Act 47 coordinator Ryan P. Hottenstein, vice president for Financial Solutions, of Reading.
Increasing the real estate tax rate from 30 mills to 35 mills is expected to generate about $115,000 for the city since 1 mill is equivalent to $23,000. Hiking the earned income tax from 1 percent to 2 percent will result in an additional $850,000 in revenue for the city.
Slaby said the city is maintaining rather than increasing taxes. He said the city has not actually raised taxes since 2013.
Slaby said city council is expected to approve a preliminary budget for 2019 at its next meeting Monday night.
Under questioning by Shamokin solicitor Frank Konopka, Slaby and Hottenstein told the court the city desperately needs the revenue generated by the taxes and wouldn’t be able to provide the same services without it.
“We couldn’t balance the budget without the increase,” Slaby said. “We would run out of money in October and would have to shut the city down.”
Hottenstein said he and other Act 47 officials have reviewed the 2019 tentative spending plan for the city to make sure it conforms with the Act 47 plan.
He agreed with Slaby that the city couldn’t provide basic services, make payroll or pay the bills without the petition being approved by the judge.
“If the petition isn’t approved, it would impact the health and safety of the citizens of Shamokin,” Hottenstein said.
Also in attendance was Jim Rose, local government policy specialist with the state Department of Community and Economic Development.