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County commissioners adopt Hansell's revised 2013 budget

Lehigh County Commissioners let a budget amended by County Executive Bill Hansell stand at their Nov. 14 meeting.

The budget was returned to the commissioners by the executive who vetoed amendments to the budget that would have cut $5 million in spending and reduced real estate revenues by a little more than $5 million.

Instead, the budget was amended by Hansell to include a total of $3.5 million in spending cuts to specific line items and a reduction in real estate revenues by $3 million.

The amended budget sent to Hansell had been passed with the support of republican commissioners Vic Mazziotti, Scott Ott, Lisa Scheller, Michael Schware and Thomas Creighton III.

Democratic Commissioners Daniel McCarthy and David Jones were joined by Republican Commissioners Percy Dougherty and Brad Osborne in opposing the amendment.

The five Republicans who supported the original amended budget were unable to sway the one extra commissioner needed to overturn the veto, keeping the larger spending cuts in place.

Hansell advocated for his revised budget.

"What I tried to do is craft a middle ground compromise between a position of my original budget and what I heard all of you say last meeting, which was that you wanted tax reduction and spending cuts, Hansell said. "This is a bipartisan budget. I listened to all of you, even those I disagreed with three weeks ago."

Mazziotti lamented five of the commissioners on the board were not included in crafting the revised budget, and the move by Hansell to keep them in the dark was not any form of "bipartisanship" he wanted to be a part of.

"Even though we heard a litany of sins at the last meeting about what would happen if we cut $5 million from the budget, the county executive was able to come up with 70 percent of those cuts without a single cut to services" Mazziotti said.

Schware echoed Mazzioti comments.

"Since the last meeting we've made good progress toward the $5 million, but I don't think $5 million is enough," Schware said. "Just one meeting ago, we were told by the administration there was nothing to cut. Now we're being told there's $3.5 million that can be cut and it doesn't affect personnel. The executive's veto is not the best deal for the taxpayer."

Commissioners had the opportunity to eliminate line item cuts made by the executive, but passed.

"I think the budget as revised by our executive is a good financial package for Lehigh County residents," Osborne said. "It requires county spending is $3.5 million less in 2013 than in 2012, and it spells out specifically where those cuts come from."

Jones argued for consensus building in budget talks.

"If county government going forward is going to get to the end that everyone wants, it's not because we can muster five votes and shove it down the county's throat, its going to be because there's leadership that creates a consensus and collaborative approach," Jones said.

That comment brought discussion on the budget to a close. With the vetos standing, the budget was adopted as revised by Hansell.