Pedri: Vehicle Registration Fee Will Take Effect Soon In County
WILKES-BARRE — Three Luzerne County residents showed up Wednesday for David Pedri’s third annual end-of-year forum as county manager.
Pedri outlined the county’s accomplishments in 2018 as well as challenges county officials and residents face next year and beyond.
He also provided an update on the county-wide $5 vehicle registration surcharge that county council approved in May.
The fee, to fund repairs to county-owned roads and bridges, will take effect early next year after the county solicitor’s office reaches an agreement with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, Pedri said.
The implementation of the fee had been delayed for months, he said, since PennDOT officials did not like a provision county council added when it approved the fee: If PennDOT withdraws promised dollar-for-dollar matching funds for fee revenue devoted to bridge repair, the county will rescind its approval.
That issue appears to be resolved and the fee will take effect soon, Pedri said. It is projected to generate about $1.4 million in annual revenue plus the PennDOT matching funds, which are only guaranteed for one year.
The fee will be collected by PennDOT as part of the vehicle registration process.
The county saw progress in several areas this year, Pedri said, during a relaxed forum that featured holiday cookies and back-and-forth discussion with the audience. According to Pedri, those areas include:
• The reopening of the county courthouse rotunda, following a long renovation project.
• The launch of the county’s new website and Facebook page. The website will help attract visitors and prospective residents and business owners to the county, Pedri said.
• The renovated entrance to the lower level of the courthouse, which Pedri said provides improved security and a safer method to store firearms, which visitors must surrender when entering the courthouse.
• The alignment of the payroll cycle for all county employees, so all are paid for work already completed.
The county also cleared a years-long budget deficit that peaked at $16.9 million, Pedri said.
“The county is deficit-free,” he said. “Any savings we have go directly to our reserve to fund the government.”
But county finances in 2019 will be tight, according to Pedri.
County council will need to make tough decisions about how to fund two mandated equipment upgrades: the county 911 communication system and new voting machines that provide a “paper trail” for added security.
Mark Rabo, of Hazleton, asked Pedri about alternative funding sources such as state gaming grants for the 911 upgrade, which could cost $20 million.
Pedri vowed to pursue all possible funding sources before asking council to approve long-term borrowing.
The final phase of the courthouse renovation project will be completed next year, Pedri said.
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