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Higher taxes, job cuts part of Reading mayor's budget plan

By Dwayne Parker, Reporter, DParker@wfmz.com
Published On: Oct 02 2012 07:00:00 PM CDT
Updated On: Oct 03 2012 10:57:25 PM CDT

Reading Budget Problems

READING, Pa. -

Higher taxes and job cuts could be on the way for the city of Reading.

It's all part of Mayor Vaughn Spencer's proposed budget.

City officials have dubbed it the "Austerity Budget."

Property taxes could be going up by as much as 15%, and as far as job cuts are concerned, everything is on the table, officials said.

James Cannon, who rents an apartment in the city, said he is concerned.

"If the property tax goes up, that means the owner is going to have to jack up the rent," said Cannon.

According to officials, the increased pension and city insurance costs are to blame. They have gone up, over last year, in excess of $5 million, officials said.

"Those are things that we have to pay. So we have to find a way to balance our budget using those costs," said Carole Synder, managing director for the city of Reading.

Snyder adds that everything is on the table, including possible job cuts in the city's fire department, police department and public works.

"It is not my desire to make job cuts, especially in the area of police and fire and public works, but the reality is there may be some jobs cuts," said Synder.

Another option to possibly avoid job cuts could involve drastically cutting down on overtime, officials said.

Wednesday evening the mayor's proposed budget received strong oposition from some city council members who said they would not support raising property taxes.

"We will do anything, or whatever it takes during the next few weeks to make sure that doesn't become a reality," said Francis Acosta, city council president.

"We know that people are on fixed incomes and cannot afford to support the city in this way," said Marcia Goodman-Hinnershitz, city council member. "We've asked them to come to the plate often enough."

Some council members suggested looking to regional solutions.

"We need to be looking at a regional approach to the delivery of services and not be so reliant on small cities being able to sustain themselves," said Goodman-Hinnershitz.

After the mayor listened to comments, this is what he said.

"The bottom line, I think there was a strong consensus from both council and the administration that we definitely need to look at amending the plan," said Spencer.

The budget has not been finalized and officials said they are still working to "flesh out" the numbers.

The budget must be finalized by December.