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LH Council offers payment plan for property taxes

LOCK HAVEN — During its first ever virtual meeting, city council approved multiple coronavirus related resolutions, one of which will benefit property owners during the state of emergency.

City Manager Gregory Wilson presented council with a resolution that would give the option for real estate taxes paid through installments rather than all at once.

The resolution gives property owners the option to pay 25 percent of their total tax due plus any adjustments over the course of seven months in 2020.

The first payment would be due on May 4 with the remaining three due on July 4, Sept. 4 and Nov. 4.

This resolution ties into another council approved that waives late fees on property taxes in light of the pandemic.

Wilson said that although the payments are an option, the resolution does state that property owners who pay in full by May 4 will receive a 2 percent discount.

“A lot of businesses in this community are owner funded and finance and they don’t necessarily have mortgages so this would really be something that would enable them through this,” Wilson said. “This… just a small thing could be a big thing when it comes to slow cash flow.”

The payment option was approved unanimously for council with a second reading and adoption expected to be during a special meeting sometime before April 3, Wilson said.

Questions or comments about the ordinance can be directed to manager@lockhavenpa.gov from which residents can request a copy of the Ordinance be sent to them as well.

Mayor Joel Long commended Wilson for his work in putting together the payment plan.

“I think it’s important that we do whatever we can to try and soften the blow to the businesses with the state of emergency going on,” he said.

Councilman Richard “Rick” Conklin echoed Long’s statement.

“I think considering what a lot of business owners are doing in this community to help people get through this… I think every gesture is appreciated,” he said.

Council also approved a resolution which outlines providing compensation for city employees during an infectious disease emergency.

Wilson explained that, according to federal law, the city is required to pay their employees for five business days at the beginning of a state of emergency; followed by five days of employees providing their own compensation; and ending with 10 business days of pay by the city themselves.

Wilson said employees are currently utilizing sick, vacation and personal days this week while city buildings are closed. The city will beginning paying them beginning next week.

“This will get us through the next month,” he said.

The resolution accommodates the Emergency Leave Act of 2020 signed by President Donald Trump with employees required to meet specific requirements under the law.

According to the resolution, a city employee will be compensated if they are on leave:

— In response to quarantine requirements or recommendations for you personally.

— To care for a family member who has been required or recommended to be quarantined.

— To care for your child whose school has been closed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

— Close of the regular worksite because of the recommendation or order of the federal or state government or its president, governor, or department of health.

City Hall and multiple other city buildings closed to the public and layed off multiple “non life sustaining” employees last week when Mayor Joel Long declared a state of emergency in accordance with Gov. Tom Wolf’s declaration.

Wilson will provide a recommendation to Long closer to April 3 – the state of emergency expiration – on whether it needs to be extended, dependent on how Wolf proceeds.

“We need to see how the month ends to see how to proceeds with employment,” he said.

Currently the city has 54 full time employees with about half effected, Wilson said.

He further explained that employees are provided 12 sick days each year that can build up over time which many have.

“I will say there are a couple of employees who do not have enough sick, vacation and personal days to make it through this week,” he noted.

Councilman Richard Morris was absent from the video conference.

Council plans to meet on Monday, April 6 unless further action from the governor’s recommendations and orders.

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