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Easton still awaiting arrival of revenue from new commuter tax, council told

By Len Righi, WFMZ.com Reporter
Published On: Apr 25 2013 07:51:24 AM CDT
EASTON, Pa. -

Easton officials will learn in a couple of weeks if a new, higher commuter earned income tax is on target in raising the extra money needed to help make a $1.8 million pension fund payment this year.

City finance director Chris Heagele delivered the news during an upbeat first-quarter report to council on Tuesday night.

Last August, council boosted the earned income tax rate from 1 percent to 1.75 percent for people who work in the city but live elsewhere. It took effect Jan. 1 and is expected to bring in $1.35 million.

Council member Roger Ruggles asked Heagele why the figures he presented to council showed just over $5,000 had come into the city's coffers. "It's gotta be more, just from all the people who've been yelling at me [about the higher tax]," he said with a chuckle.

Heagele said employers have until April 30 to submit the amount of earned income tax they withheld in the first quarter and that the $5,000 represents only "one or two" employers who filed their report by March 30.

Heagele predicted, "A dramatic increase in revenue is likely in May."

He said at that time, the city will have a better idea if the higher tax will raise the estimated $1.35 million. Heagele added that he "was shooting in the dark" when he estimated the amount last year.

Ruggles also asked about the seemingly low level of parking revenue in the first quarter.

City administrator Glenn Heckman said that the low level was not unexpected, because Crayola was closed for renovations at the end of February, and the city was "transitioning" to a new meter system.

However, Steckman said, "We're only going to see meter revenue continue to climb" as the year goes on.

He said the city is already taking in an average of $400 from the new credit card meters now that Sunday parking is no longer entirely free.

"And when Crayola [reopens] in May, they are going to tax [the capacity] of the [city] garage," Steckman noted.

"Come May, we're going to be scratching to find parking spaces for people," said Ruggles.

Mayor Sal Panto said the city's new meters are bringing in an extra $18,500 a month, and that he has "not had one phone call" complaining about the new $1 an hour parking fee.