Friday, November 16, 2007

No tax hike in Berks County in 2008 ... or maybe never?

Berks County is projecting an $83 million budget surplus as the county commissioners prepare to approve a $460 million spending plan for 2008.

So much for the dire predictions of financial ruin by the current Democratic board, which pushed through a 34 percent property tax hike in 2005.

How would you like to be Democrat Tom Gajewski, the soon-to-be former commissioner who voted for the 34 percent property tax hike?

Gajewski and his fellow Democrat Judy Schwank blew it with their sky-is-falling predictions and their 2-1 vote to pass the second biggest tax hike in county history.

That vote was the main reason the Board of Commissioners will be controlled by Republicans for the next four years (and the No. 1 reason Gajewski was voted out on Nov. 6.)

Schwank dropped out of the race over the summer to head an advocacy group in Harrisburg. Gajewski will be looking for work come January.

Even with a 6.5 percent rise in spending for 2008, the county will not need a tax increase. And don't count on any tax increases over the next four years.

The new Republican majority, Mark Scott and Christian Leinbach, ran on a campaign of fiscal discipline. Leinbach came right out and said during the campaign that he would never vote for a tax increase as long as he served.

County officials are predicting a budget shortfall in 2009 and beyond, but that's assuming county government will continue to grow.

Leinbach and Scott are expected to put the brakes on runaway government spending. Unlike many in government, Leinbach didn't run for commissioner to qualify for a government pension. He's going to be looking for ways to trim the fat and there's plenty to trim.

Even the new Democrat commissioner, Kevin Barnhardt, bragged about bringing business experience to county government. Let's hope he keeps his promise and start working with the GOP majority to trim the fat from county government.

Some people say we shouldn't blame Gajewski for voting to raise taxes and spending every year he served on the commissioners' board. He is a creature of government and has collected a paycheck from taxpayers for the past 30 years. Raising other people's taxes is all this guy knows. (See Hillary Clinton on the national stage).

You can read more about the budget online at

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