It’s the budget crisis for the county council of Luzerne
Luzerne County Council is now less than a month away from passing a 2023 budget on Dec. 13.
The Council would need to identify approximately $7.1 million in reductions or new revenue to avoid a proposed 6.75% increase, which equates to an additional $55 per year for the average property valued at $132,776.
Three other meetings are scheduled before the adoption, the first on Tuesday and the others on November 29 and December 6.
County District Attorney Sam Sanguedolce is due to present his proposed budget during Tuesday’s budget working session, which follows a 6 p.m. voting meeting at the River Street County Courthouse in Wilkes-Barre.
Board chair Kendra Radle said the two remaining divisions will present their budget proposals on November 29 – administrative services and operational services.
Administrative services include the electoral office and seven other departments: human resources, procurement/acquisitions, information technology, GIS/mapping, licensing/permits, community development and tourism. Jennifer Pecora began overseeing this division in September.
Operational services cover engineering, roads and bridges, planning and zoning, 911, emergency management, buildings and grounds, boiler room and solid waste management. Greg Kurtz was hired in September to oversee the operations division.
Council members haven’t started voting on the changes they want to make to the budget.
Amendments to the budget were scheduled for the Dec. 6 meeting, but Radle said it’s also possible the board will start deciding on the amendments at the Nov. 29 meeting.
Approving changes is the only way for the board to definitively track the net impact of spending cuts (or additions) and revenue changes.
In addition to Tuesday’s DA budget presentation, the council is set to discuss publicity and a timeline for the county’s new Citizens Search Committee to be activated now that Randy Robertson won’t. is more of a director.
As previously reported, the board named Brian Swetz acting county manager. Swetz was already intimately involved with the county budget as head of the budget/finance division.
Under the county’s self-government charter, the council must rely on an outside committee to seek out, select and conduct initial interviews with candidates for county executive.
Seven citizens sat on the last research committee, while there were five on the first. Council unanimously agreed to nominate only three citizens — the minimum required in the charter — for the new committee.
Consistent with past practice, the council will publicly interview citizen nominees before voting on the three who will serve.
Some board members also suggested specifying a shorter time frame for the committee to complete its work. The final search committee began meeting in August 2021 and presented three finalists to the board in early March 2022.
Although the board can recommend a timeline, it is ultimately up to the committee to decide how long it needs to make recommendations.
Search committee members must “possess relevant qualifications, knowledge and/or experience in seeking, recruiting and identifying qualified candidates for the position of county manager,” the charter says.
Instructions for attending Tuesday’s meeting remotely are posted under the online council meeting link on luzernecounty.org.
The county publicly advertised an executive position overseeing the offices of the prothonotary and clerk of the courts.
James Haddock has overseen the offices since September 2013. Based on the unofficial November 8 general election results, Haddock declared victory in his race for state representation in the 118th Legislative District.
The Director of Prothonotary/Clerk of Courts position is advertised between $52,000 and $56,000 per year, and applications are due December 1, according to the posting in the Human Resources Career Opportunities section of luzernecounty.org .
Contact Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.