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New Lehigh County executive, William Hansell, introduces a no-tax increase budget

By Will Lewis, Reporter, WLewis@wfmz.com
Published On: Aug 27 2012 07:00:00 PM CDT
Updated On: Aug 28 2012 06:13:47 PM CDT

Lehigh County executive sworn in Tuesday

ALLENTOWN, Pa. -

Bill Hansell wasted no time.

He delivered a no-tax increase budget proposal for 2013 just moments after being sworn into office.

The spending plan even includes a tax rebate for many, but it also cuts 21 county jobs to balance the books.

It was the first order of business for the new Lehigh County Executive Bill Hansell.

He gave commissioners a budget that he hopes both sides will find common ground.

"We have to go through this with a fine tooth comb now and see if there are areas where maybe we can make some adjustments," said Lehigh county commissioner, Percy Dougherty.

Hansell's $365 million 2013 budget will include reducing the county staff by 21 people.

"Some of them are vacant positions that we will not fill," said Hansell. "Some of them are retirements, and some of them will actually be people that will not have a job anymore."

There will also be money given to fund two first year programs.

The Lehigh County Regional Crime Data center and the County's "medicolegal" building for the coroner's office.

"This is a fairly complicated year because of the reassessment which was approved by the commissioners early in the year," said Hansell.

That's why Hansell is proposing a $6.5 million onetime tax break for homeowners.

The money is meant to help people offset possible higher tax bills due to the recent home reassessments.

The credit equals $44 a household on average, but some feel the money should go somewhere else.

"I'll take a very unpopular position and I will state that personally I feel we should have used that money to pay for the pension fund," said Dougherty.

The reason why Commissioner Dougherty wants the money to go to pensions is because Lehigh County's pension fund is only 84 percent funded.

Right now they have a short fall of between $55 to $65 million.

Public hearings on the budget will start on September 13th.