Scranton Brings Back Tax Sale

The cash-strapped city of Scranton made an appeal to people who haven’t paid their property taxes.

The city hasn’t done that since the 1990s.

Some city officials said it’s about time, since the city is at risk of running out of money this year.

One by one, officials from the city of Scranton listed properties in the city that have gone by the wayside. Out of more than one thousand homes, businesses, or lots that are tax-delinquent, only 19 were purchased.

This is the first time in 14 years that Scranton officials put properties owing taxes on the auction block. Officials said the city’s records needed updating and an outside company needed to be called in before Scranton could start collecting that tax money.

“It hadn’t been done in 14 years, so we’ve got to start now doing things such as this, and hopefully get the city back in the right direction,” said Scranton city treasurer Christopher Boland.

City residents could face steep property tax hikes over the next few years, but the tax sale only covered properties owing taxes between 2004 and 2009.

The city of Scranton hopes to collect more than $4 million from tax-delinquent properties, but that doesn’t solve the immediate problem. Scranton Mayor Chris Doherty said the city still needs to secure a $16 million loan to pay the rest of the year’s bills.

That loan is budgeted to pay workers’ salaries this year, and Mayor Doherty has already made plans to raise taxes in the future to pay back the loan.

In the scheme of things, officials said the tax sale doesn’t do a lot to pull the city out of its financial hole, especially since the city gained only $25,000 from property sales.

Many people looking to buy the tax-delinquent lots were discouraged because the city requires the new buyer to take over liens and other back taxes for the property.

“I think it is about time, but it’s interesting. There are actually a lot of properties that are up for sale that aren’t being bid on,” said Scranton resident Michael Faris.

People who bid on properties won’t actually own those properties until a year from now. The original owners have a chance to pay their back taxes.

Scranton officials said dozens of people came in Monday to pay their taxes. The city earned more than $70,000 dollars from back taxes on Monday alone.