Blair County Judge Hiram Carpenter on Friday granted a city petition to levy a total of $2.5 million in earned income and property taxes beyond normal state limits for 2014.
If Carpenter had denied the petition, the city would have had to lay off a third of its workforce, jeopardizing public safety, according to interim City Manager Omar Strohm.
Carpenter's OK means the city can follow a key revenue-raising directive in its Act 47 distress recovery plan, using an Act 47 cap waiver on earned income tax, while continuing its long tradition of taking the maximum allowable general income tax, which doesn't require an Act 47 waiver.
With Carpenter's ruling, the city will levy a total of 0.7 percent regular earned income tax on workers living in the city - with 0.2 percent of that amount permissible through the Act 47 waiver.
The city will levy 0.1 percent regular earned income tax on workers living outside the city - all by permission of the Act 47 waiver.
The earned income tax allowable through these waivers amounts to $1.5 million.
Each of the levies for next year are 0.05 percent smaller than the levies for this year - although total earned income tax bills will be the same, because the city is raising its special pension surtax by 0.05 percent, an increase that doesn't require court permission.
Carpenter's ruling also means the city can levy 30 mills general property tax - five beyond the state's soft cap.
That extra five mills, to reach the state's hard property tax cap, is available every year, without benefit of an Act 47 waiver.
Based on case law, the city only needed to prove to the judge that it requires the extra cap-stretching levies to meet its 2014 budget.
But every year, the solicitor - who in recent times has been Larry Clapper - chooses to go further, emphasizing the number of layoffs that would be necessary to make ends meet, if the judge rejects the petition.
"I'm satisfied," Carpenter said as he signed the order. "I think you have met your burden."
Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.