Tuesday, December 8, 2009

When The Media Just Gets It Plain Wrong

In a Standard Speaker article yesterday Mia Light wrote an analysis of the last week's City Council meeting. Mayor Barletta and Council members clashed over the budget.

Towards the end of the article she analyzed the potential impact of a property tax, earned income tax and garbage fee increases on city residents. Unfortunately her figures for property tax were off by a factor of 10.

City property owners will see a 0.98-mill increase in the real estate tax from the current 1.40 mills to 2.38 mills.

For the owner of a property valued at $90,000 - which the Census Bureau says is the median home value in the city - the current real estate tax of 1.40 mills renders an annual property tax bill of $1,260. With the proposed 0.98 mill increase to 2.38 mills, the owner of that $90,000 home will pay $2,142 - or an additional $882 - in real estate taxes in 2010.

According to the proposed budget, cost increases don't stop at the earned income tax and real estate tax for residents of Hazleton. Whether renter or a homeowner, the price of garbage collection and disposal is slated for a $32 increase from $208 to $240 next year.

Currently, the average citizen with a median income of $34,000 and a home valued at $90,000 pays a combined total of $2,114 in real estate tax, earned income tax and garbage fees. That would increase to $3,147 under the proposed 2010 budget.

Do the math. She multiplied by the wrong decimal point. Using her example 1.4 mills is represented by .0014 not .014. If you multiply $90,000 times .0014 you get $126.00, not $1260.00. Likewise a 0.98 mill increase means $98.00 for every $100,000.00 in assessed valuation.

Mary Ellen Leib, Acting City Administrator, laid out that fact on November 3, 2009 in an article written by Steve Mocarsky, Times Leader.

Light's figures regarding a person earning $34,000.00 is totally off base.
The proposed property tax increase would amount to an additional $88.20 per year on a $90,000.00 home.

The increase in the Act 205 assessment was caused by legislation authored by Todd Eachus. Her example amounts to $119.00 increase. The garbage increase would amount to $32.00.

To sum up the error the actual total increase would amount to $239.20. The total tax liability for a person living and working in Hazleton would go from $984.00 to $1223.20, not $3,147.00 as written by Light.

That mistake is worthy of a page one correction. Let's see where the Standard Speaker stands on fair and balanced reporting.

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