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Financial Impact Of F-2 Tornado Wallops W-B Twp. Budget Process

November 15, 2018

Mayor Carl Kuren presented his proposed 2019 budget to council members and township citizens at the regular meeting held Nov. 5. In his presentation, Kuren stated, “2018 was a year unlike any other that Wilkes-Barre Twp. has ever seen. In June, we saw something that we hope we never see again, as an F-2 tornado tore through our retail district. “While I would never say we were lucky, I will say we were fortunate that there was no loss of life, and personal injury was kept to a bare minimum. We are all aware that if the F-2 tornado had struck just a little earlier in the evening, this could have been a much different scenario as thousands of shoppers and diners would have been in the area enjoying all that Wilkes-Barre Twp. has to offer. “Although the personal injuries sustained during this catastrophic event were minimal, the destruction of many retail outlets in our township was not. Tens of millions of dollars in property damage were sustained by the businesses located in the area. Businesses that are much of the backbone of our business community such as Dicks Sporting Goods, Staples, TJ Maxx, Barnes and Noble, Ashley Furniture, Panera Bread, Ken Pollock Nissan, U-Haul, Kurlancheek Furniture and Tovon & Co., just to name a few sustained significant damage and some were totally destroyed beyond repair. One thing we learned is that our business community is just as resilient as the good citizens of Wilkes-Barre Twp. as many have already begun the rebuilding process and many more plan to do so in the near future. Several others, however, will not be back. “While the property damage from the tornado will be repaired, the economic impact of the events that occurred in June cannot be overstated. Our township relies heavily on Mercantile Tax and the Local Services Tax, both of which will be significantly reduced. The LST tax is projected to be down $50,000 for 2018 alone as many employees who worked in the area were without work until their establishments could be repaired. Mercantile Tax, however, will be impacted in 2019 as the tax related to 2018 sales is due by the end of March 2019. With many retail outlets in that area closed for months, maybe even years, the proceeds from the Mercantile Tax will be greatly reduced in 2019 and possibly for years to come. Coupled with the loss of Lord and Taylor, we project mercantile tax proceeds to be down at least $300,000 in 2019 and LST tax collections to be down another $40,000 in 2019. “Another item having a detrimental effect on our budget is the amount of real estate tax abatements we have been paying out. When the county undertook the real estate tax re-evaluation that was completed in 2009, real estate values were at historically all-time highs. As such, many commercial properties challenged these assessments and are just working their way through the courts now, forcing us to pay out over $400,000 in abatements over the past three years. Believe it or not, many commercial properties are now paying less to Wilkes-Barre Twp. in real estate taxes than they were before the 2009 reassessment. “When adding all factors together, our operating budget is estimated to be at least 10 percent less in 2019 when compared to 2018. As such, we have cut our budget significantly and halted non-mandatory and wish list items. We have not budgeted to fill several positions left vacant by retirements; administrative conferences and the planned purchase of police cruisers and dump trucks have been put on hold and will remain on a wait and see basis. Of course, there is no way to avoid the typical annual increases in health, property and workman’s compensation insurances, but we have done everything possible to lessen the economic impact of all these factors on our township finances. “On a very positive note, I am proud of the fact that through prudent management, my administration has been able to maintain a positive fund balance each of the past 19 years in office. Unfortunately, we will most certainly have to tap into these reserves in 2019 to reduce the economic burdens that will impact us. This is exactly why we strive to maintain a positive fund balance! “As a result, I am proud to present our 2019 budget reflecting no tax increase for 2019.” The mayor’s proposed 2019 budget lists $4,328,600 in revenue which includes an anticipated general fund cash balance of $201,398 for 2018. Main sources of revenue are derived from real estate taxes, earned income taxes, mercantile taxes, business privilege taxes, LST taxes and building/zoning permits. Anticipated expenses for 2019 are: administration $509,900; police $1,622,995; sanitation $282,456; highway $455,362; recreation, $133,423; zoning $33,165; fire $69,087 and miscellaneous $1,176,467. The proposed sewer expenditure for 2019 is $582,590, leaving a $918,610 surplus. The second reading and public hearing on the budget will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 27. The monthly work session will follow. The third reading and final passage of the budget will be held at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 3, at the regular meeting of council. Gerald Shinal will preside. Christmas tree lighting Mayor Carl Kuren has announced the annual Christmas tree lighting will take place at 5 p.m. Friday, Nov. 30, at the township municipal building. Quinn and Calvin Joyce, children of Brooke and Tim Joyce, will have the honor of lighting the tree this year. They are the grandchildren of John and Karen Burden and George and Dorothy Joyce. Great grandparents are Matilda “Tillie” and Charlie Weigand. Music will be provided by Charles Fetterman. Food and hot chocolate will be served for all to enjoy and, of course, Santa will be making an appearance for the young and old. Township residents are invited to join in the fun and singing the beautiful Christmas sing-a-longs. School tax last day at face value A representative from Northeast Revenue Service will be available at the township municipal building from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. today for residents who pay their 2018 school tax when in face value. Taxpayers will be penalized 10 percent if taxes are paid after today. Warsaw Sportsmen to sell Christmas trees The Warsaw Sportsmen Club members will be selling fresh cut Christmas trees and Christmas wreaths/sprays at the corner of South Walnut and Metcalf streets starting Saturday, Dec. 1. All Canaan, Douglas Fir and Blue Spruce trees, regardless of size, are $25, Blue Spruce wreaths are $15; sprays, $10; cemetery wreaths, $15, and cemetery stands, $3. The Christmas tree lot will be open from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Club members suggest in order to keep your Christmas tree fresh, saw the trunk off at a slight angle and set it in a tight receptacle with the following solution: to one gallon of water, add one cup light corn syrup, four teaspoons of Clorox and four tablespoons of plant food. Replenish as needed. Police reports for October Police Chief Ron Smith announced the police department responded to 463 calls for service for the month of October, including the following: 52 motor vehicle accidents, seven assist citizens, 12 assist motorists, 16 assist other police, six harassment complaints, 19 disorderly conduct complaints, 12 domestic disturbances, 20 suspicious persons complaints, 21 burglar alarms, 36 retail thefts, 20 thefts and 151 traffic violations. Police arrested 50 adult offenders and three juvenile offenders, either through direct contact after the crime was committed or the charges were filed against persons as a result of concluding a criminal investigation, including the following: 15 retail theft offenses, five theft offenses, three public drunkenness offenses, 16 drug offenses, three harassment offenses and two DUI offenses. Uniform Crime Report (UCR) statistical information for Wilkes-Barre Twp. through the most recent reported month of September 2018, shows that UCR Part 1 offenses have a zero percent change, while Part 2 offenses have increased 11.92 percent, over the same period of 2017. The overall crime rate for the township has increased 6.27 percent. Senior citizens news The seniors enjoyed their annual Halloween party recently. Several members were dressed in colorful costumes and received prizes. The seniors especially enjoyed being entertained by the township play school children directed by Theresa Stefanski and Joyce Cannon. Each child received a monetary gift from the club. Members were treated to hoagies for lunch. Candy treats were donated by club member Betty Disler. Alice Hixon was in charge. The senior citizens annual Christmas party will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 9, at the Wilkes-Barre Twp. fire hall. Co-chairwomen are Rosemarie Williams, Helen Novak and Sue Pohutski. Non-members are also invited. The affair will be catered by KL’s Catering. Reservations can be made with Bernadine Elick at 570-823-7540 until Dec. 2. Winners of the recent 50-50 were Tina Cherkauskas, Jeanne Sprow, Rose Okrasinski and Dorothy Murphy. Winners of the special games were Rosemarie Williams and Elaine Myers. Members honored Ann Galle on the occasion of her birthday. Members will not meet on Wednesday, Nov. 21, due to the Thanksgiving Day holiday. New members are welcome. Members meet at 10:30 a.m. every Wednesday in the township municipal building community room, break for coffee and pastries at noon and continue playing bingo until 3 p.m. Transportation is provided for any township resident who has no means of transportation to the municipal building. Our Lady of Hope news The annual Novena to St. Anthony of Padua will be held at 5:30 p.m. for nine consecutive Tuesdays ending Dec. 18 at Our Lady of Hope, 40 Park Ave. It is the only Novena to St. Anthony that is held in the Scranton Diocese. Everyone is invited to join in special prayers and the blessing of the relic of St. Anthony. The Prayer Shawl Ministry meets from 1 to 3 p.m. every Monday in the rectory. Over the years, the members have made hundreds of shawls for anyone battling an illness, young or old, also mini shawl-like holders for preemies and mittens and scarfs for children. All items are blessed by Father Terry before they are distributed. No experience is needed in order to join. If interested, call Rita Tarnalicki at 570-824-4744 or Shirley Klauss at 570-825-5150. St. John B.C. Church news If you didn’t order your holiday rolls yet, you are too late as St. John’s quota for holiday rolls has been reached and no further orders will be taken. For those who have ordered their rolls for the Christmas holiday, they will be available for pick up at St. John’s parish hall, 756 E. Northampton St., from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 29, and Friday, Nov. 30. Parking is available in the rear of the hall on Church Street. I would like to wish “A Happy Thanksgiving” to all the readers of Wilkes-Barre Twp. Talk. Bernadine Elick writes “Wilkes-Barre Twp. Talk” every other Thursday. She can be reached at elickbern59@aol.com, or 570-823-7540.

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