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Monday, August 30, 2010

Easton Only LV City to Finish 2009 With a Surplus

Mayor Sal Panto calls it a "whopping" $32,953.

So it's not a lot of money, but an independent audit shows that Easton, unlike sister cities Allentown and Bethlehem, finished 2009 in the black. It's the third year in a row that Easton has finished with a surplus.

So what does Shadtown have that you won't find in Peanutville or the Christmas City?

Sal Panto.

On Friday, while Callahan was campaigning for Congress and Pawlowski was shaking down campaign contributors, Panto was one of very few elected officials listening to a discussion of municipal finance. He works for you while they seem to promote themselves. They insist nobody could have predicted stagnant real estate revenue, but he did.

38 comments:

Anonymous said...

Right..He also is or will be getting a half a million a year in table games money that should be going to the host city and county. Maybe they'd be in better shape if the players involved in that manuevering didn't pull that fast one.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations to Sal Panto. He has come around to being a sound and decent mayor.

Anonymous said...

ust imagine if Fleck were Mayor! We would be as good as Bethlehem and Allentown!

Anonymous said...

We've heard Sal keeps his office door open and "everyone" can make an appt. to speak with him. This practice is remarkable and indicates a decency towards voters that seems to evaporate once some become politicians.

Anonymous said...

THere's a price for this.

Easton taxpayers pay the highest taxes in the Lehigh Valley. Real estate and income taxes are the highest. Fees such as sewer are the highest.

I agree that no municipality should have unbalanced books. Efficiency is more important instead of loading the cost on the taxpayer.

Anonymous said...

Yep. Unlike Bethlehem, Easton is full of gang thugs and dilapidated shit holes! Let's hear it for a surrrrrrrrrPLUS!

Anonymous said...

Before anyone gets too excited, it would be good to see exactly how they got there.

If there are lessons for others, wonderful. The story indicates lots of money juggling and an intent to borrow because they think money will be coming from state and federal government who have to borrow it to hand it out. I think November may cause a few problems with that theory.

If we've learned anything from this blog, it is that one public official's surplus may be his/her successor's nightmare.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Easton is full of gang thugs and dilapidated shit holes!"

Easton does have a gang problem, and Mayor Panto has refreshingly faced it head on instead of sticking his head in the sand and pretending it does not exist.

I have noticed the changes. Street seepers. Good Will volunteers. Many small business sprouting up everywhere.

It still is a City in crisis, but Panto has made a difference with hard work and by listening to his residents instead of lecturing them or doing power points.

Anonymous said...

So you make a good comparison to Allentown but use your political axe to grind Bethlehem into your piece.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 9:09, Bethlehem has finished the last two years in the red. I didn't pull that out of thin air. The truth is that Easton is the only LV City with a surplus.

Anonymous said...

"Many small business sprouting up everywhere."

I guess that goes with the record sales of real estate.

another urban myth

Bernie O'Hare said...

No myth. I've seen the evidence in the form of new restaurants and small mom and pop shops. Easton's Main Street program gave a very informative presentation to County Council about this some months ago, and I wrote about it. Forty net new businesses since 2008. Rad my story, Easton's Metaphorphosis . It's very real.

Anonymous said...

Financially Bethlehem has been in the red..However, honestly Bernie, if any sane person had a choice to pick one of the three cities to live in you really think they would choose Easton or Allentown over Bethlehem?

Bernie O'Hare said...

No, I don't. Bethlehem is the prettiest of the three Cities, at least in my view.

But how long will it still that way if it finishes each year in the red and is unable to meet core services? That's a concern.

How can a City in such financial crisis operate when its Mayor is, for all practical purposes, MIA. That's another concern.

Anonymous said...

recheck your numbers on the 40 new businesses. The Main Street people talk about new businesses opening all the time. That's their job to hype everything. Many have closed. There are empty storefronts throughout the downtown and the city. It is part the economy and part the loss of the retail establishment. Since that story ran I can count at least ten closings.

Anonymous said...

"Bethlehem is the prettiest of the three Cities, at least in my view."

Easton's waterfronts, particularly where the Lehigh falls into the Delaware, are the best scenic views in the Lehigh Valley. Allentown or Bethlehem have nothing that can compare.

Easton has maintained its waterfronts and stopped commercial and industrial development. They are beautiful-is an understatement.

Anonymous said...

Kudos to Mayor Panto who undoubtedly is gaining more success for Easton than most expected -- especially given this economy. As for the taxes, check again, there were no increases in taxes or fees this year. This is abnormal for easton.

Also, check the business opeinings. Of course there are closing -- go to the MALL where they camoflauge their vacancies with murals. It is the sign of the times unfortunately. But the good news is that the new shops and restaurants are doing well. Imagine -- some are even open on Sundays!!! WOW. now that's an accomplishment.

As for the gangs in Easton - no one will deny that but as a WW resident I can tell you they are much fewer in numbers. The word is out. I think Panto added something like 13 additional cops.

All this within budget. Can we get him to the County???????

Anonymous said...

"As for the taxes, check again, there were no increases in taxes or fees this year."

The taxes are so high, that you cannot increase them anymore. 1.75 % for earned income tax. 25 mills for real estate. Sewer rates are the highest.

Someone once wrote if Allentown and Bethlehem charged as much as Easton they would have 20 to 25 million in extra money.

Anonymous said...

Here's a good comparison:

sewer rates per 1000 gallons:

Allentown : 2.13

Bethlehem : 2.04

Easton : 9.22

I guess the streets are paved in gold in Easton.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:09, Bethlehem has finished the last two years in the red. I didn't pull that out of thin air. The truth is that Easton is the only LV City with a surplu

Great. Now which one would you walk around at night holding your prized surplus?

Anonymous said...

Easton's waterfronts, particularly where the Lehigh falls into the Delaware, are the best scenic views in the Lehigh Valley. Allentown or Bethlehem have nothing that can compare.

Easton has maintained its waterfronts and stopped commercial and industrial development. They are beautiful-is an understatement.


Allentown has parks and Bethlehem has neighborhoods. No comparison. Easton finishes LAST in my view.

Anonymous said...

Remarkable that if you raise taxes, life gets better! Someone tell that rube Angle that its not all about saving $7.47 in taxes.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Now which one would you walk around at night holding your prized surplus?"

You don't think that's important? Perhaps when your house catches fire and the fire department can't get there bc it hasn't paid for its truck, you'll think differently.

Anonymous said...

Panto is a fraud. He has high taxes and rates so he has money. Some success.

He is a former school teacher. They have one policy, raise taxes, raise rates, raise everything the tit needs more milk.

Please, enough with the nonsense.

Anonymous said...

It is difficult comparison because Bethlehem City is at 14.1 mills while Easton City is 24.95 mills. Yes, there has been some borrowing however, it is quite amazing what can be done with help from other taxpayers. Easton added cops with a 2009 multi-year $670K Federal grant. They now have $450K in new annual gaming revenue to help balance the books.

Anonymous said...

Easton's taxes and fees are the highest in the valley. My mom is getting taxed out the home she and my late father bought in 1959. The quality of life in her neighborhood is appalling. Crime and violence are daily occurrences. Easton is a mess. It has become moreso in the last few years. Balanced books are important. But nobody cares about that when they can't walk the streets safely. In most of Easton, one cannot walk the streets safely after dark. This is Sal Panto's Easton.

Anonymous said...

But Panto isn't running against Dent. Thus, Bethlehem is a living nightmare where houses are burning down while Callahan laughs atop his perch at the Sands. Oh and all the while Dent is serving at the soup kitchen.

Bernie O'Hare said...

The reality is that Easton is the only LV city to finish last year in the black. This post was not really intended somuch asa slamat the other mayors as a complimemt to Panto. Perhaps Callahan should spend a little more time doing the job he was elected to do. perhaps Pawlowski should spend a little less time soaking potential campaign contributors.

Anonymous said...

Judging from the negative comments here you all haven't been to Easton is quite some time. Not only is it safe to walk the streets at night, people ARE walking the streets. The neighborhoods are clean and safe and downtown is bustling with activity. There ar emore people on the streets in downtown Easton than downtown Allentown which is five times the size.

Now for taxes --- yes Panto increased income tax however, have you thought about the millions in deficits he inherited? or the total disarray of city hall? Easton was an embarrassment and now we are getting much better. Talking about vacancies and business closings have you seen the former Lipkin's building; former King's Cleaners and yes the FORMER vacant Pomeroy building.

I say thanks Sal and keep up the good work. The vast majority of people who actually live in Easton appreciate the work being done.

Anonymous said...

Bernie,

The issue is not finishing in the black. It is the amount of taxes and fees being paid. I compliment the other mayors for trying to keep the lid on taxes. Their efforts did not work. Perhaps they did some things that they should not have. I also compliment Easton's mayor for trying to keep the lid on taxes. The problem is at the end of the day Easton residents pay more than any other community in the Lehigh Valley. The innovation that is needed is to reduce the tax load for Easton. Bethlehem and Allentown need to prepare themselves for increases.

Anonymous said...

The federal government can print money. The state government has millions in cash available in funds to get through bad times. Local governments have to be innovative. If you are going to be innovative you may risk going into the red. The real question is does the municipality have the ability to increase taxes and fees to meet difficult times. Both Bethlehem and Allentown are way under that 25 mill ceiling. Easton is at 24.95 mills. Which municipality has the better outlook financially?

Anonymous said...

To compare the millage of Easton Bethlehem and Allentown you need to look at the assessed values. Easton's are a lot lower so the millage is higher to net the same amount of money. Do you think the people in Palmer Township pay less money than Easton because their millage is ony at 6. Heck no, my house in Easton is assessed at $38,000 and even at current real estate rates is is worth at least $150,000. In Palmer, becasue of the age of the housing stock, a house worth $150,000 is assessed somewhere between $65,000 and $75,000 depending on age. Take a beautiful McMansion on College Hill that sells for $450,000 versus a new home on Forks Township that sells for $450,000. Who pays more? You got it, the house in Forks. So don't try to judge millage it doesn't work.

I will agree that Easton has the highest sewer rates but that wasn't Panto. That was previous administrations that saw themselves against the 25 mill cap and tax-exempt property at greater than 30%.

I remember Panto's reasoning for his small increase in rates the last time he was in office ---- it is one way to get the two biggest tax exempt properties to pay their share -- Lafayette College and Northampon County and prison. The more they pay in water/sewer the less I pay in taxes. Sounds good to me.

Anonymous said...

One house in Palmer and one house in Easton having the same assessed valuation do not pay taxes based on current market value. The Palmer home is cheaper and the Easton home is more expensive. You may be correct that the Palmer house may be worth more today, but the taxes are based on the assessment that was done years ago.

Anonymous said...

No administration has been against the 25 mill tax cap in recent history. The sewer rate increases are illegal. The US supreme court has ruled that fees, contrary to taxes, must be related to the service being rendered. Easton's excuse to spread government costs among non profits will never hold in state or federal court.

Anonymous said...

I pay my taxes and fees in Easton and yes they be high or low but one thing is for certain -- I am finally getting my money's worth. In the last three years most parks have been upgraded, crime is down, street sweeping program initiated, train station looks great, city hall personnel are even smiling, well sometimes. I feel my return is there and I can pay my taxesknowing that I am getting good services. And that's what local government is all about. Yes Palmer and Forks may pay less millage but their services ar limited. Add a professional fire department, an increased police department and see where you are. And don't forget the lawsuits he had to deal with and guess what, there hasn't been a lawsuit in his three years. So all tings being equal I would place our Mayor as one of the best, if not the best, in the valley./

Anonymous said...

No one is comparing Easton to suburban communities. Easton is being compared to Bethlehem and Allentown where rates are less and services similar. Should their rates be less? Probably not, if they finish always in the red. No one at this time has even guessed at what the tax rates should be in Bethlehem. Easton's rates and fees are high. I hope that they come down. Sewer rates may capture non profits. The higher rates do hurt families and lower income people. It costs more water and sewer to care for a family of five than a single person household or unimproved property. The gain in non profits is offset by income lost on certain classes of property owners. I don't buy this argument that I come out ahead. The last increase would have cost me less if it were taxes and not sewer.

Anonymous said...

let me explain my thoughts on the whole issue of water/sewer versus property taxes. If the city has to raise my real estate tax by $100 only 50% of the property in Easton are taxable. Therefore, if the city places the increase on water/sewer my share of the increase would only be $50 since all 100% of the properties pay water/sewer/

Anonymous said...

Not really, that high percentage of tax free properties includes the two Easton cemeteries. Unless there is something really strange going on, there is little water being used by the cemetery population. It's a paradox of logic. The best example is the Will Rogers Paradox. "When the Okies left Oklahoma and settled in California, the average intelligence of both states increased." Does not seem possible, but they-California and Oklahoma-are two different sets of numbers. Same is true of water users and taxpayers. They are different. Big houses with one person occupancy and little houses with a dozen kids. One pays high taxes and little water bills. The other pays the opposite. If they were the same and usage was the same, then the savings would work. You have, unfortunately, been the victim of a hoax that never goes away. See any book on paradoxes and logic.