Friday, July 25, 2014

Pittston OK's Home Rule

February 19. 2013 3:58PM
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Pittston City's Home Rule Referendum was approved by voters on Tuesday.

The result would primarily be how Pittston residents are taxed.

More than 61 percent of the voters approved the measure with 1,659 votes. And 38 percent of voters rejected the measure with 1,021, according to unofficial returns from Luzerne County.

Last November, Pittston City voters approved the formation of a commission to study home rule for the city. Voters approved the results of that commission on Tuesday.

Enacting the Home Rule Charter basically allows elected city officials flexibility in governing not allowed by the current Third Class City Code, especially when it comes to taxation.

The biggest change city residents are likely to experience is in this area as council would be able to raise revenue through an earned income tax (EIT) rather than merely through property taxes.

Members of the commission included former Mayor Michael Lombardo, current Mayor Jason Klush, Ginger Murphy, Art Bobbouine, Joe Chernouskas, Fred Stuccio and Ben Tielle Jr.

The seven commission members will serve as a transition team with all transitions to be complete by Dec. 31, 2013.

Lombardo has said the measure is crucial in moving the city forward and providing tax relief for senior citizens on fixed incomes.

Lombardo has said that under home rule city council could use a wage tax to generate revenue and in turn lower property taxes.

For example, a half-percent wage tax could mean a 20 percent reduction in property tax.

The burden of funding the city would begin to shift from the homeowner to the wage earner.

And since the tax would be on earned wages, it would not affect Social Security benefits.

Voters were asked: Shall the Home Rule Charter contained in the report, dated August 27, 2012, of the Government Study Commission, prepared in accordance with the Home Rule Charter and Optional Plans Law, be adopted by Pittston City?

Critics said the measure removes checks and balances. The elected controller will be replaced with an auditor, who would be a city employee. There were also concerns about a wage tax ranging from 1 to 3 percent, without a guarantee of reducing property taxes.

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