SCRANTON -- A property tax hike proposed by the Mayor of Scranton could be the biggest in recent memory. Almost a 50% increase for 2014, plus an increase in garbage fees.
Mayor Chris Doherty said it's needed to get Scranton back on good financial ground, but taxpayers on fixed incomes said their finances will take a big hit.
Scranton City Council will discuss the proposed budget for the first time at its meeting Thursday night. City council can make changes to the Mayor's proposal.
Today Newswatch 16 talked to taxpayers who are most concerned about two parts of the budget, plans for a 49% property tax increase and an increase in garbage fees.
A group of friends meets for lunch each day at the South Side Senior Center in Scranton. They have a lot in common, many of them are homeowners in the city and almost all of them are on a fixed income.
So, news that they could face Scranton's highest ever hike in property taxes is pretty scary.
"Paying extra taxes just isn't feasible for the older people today, you know? And you figure most of those people are going to lose their homes," said Mary Lou Kernan of Scranton.
The budget proposal that includes a 49% property tax increase isn't set in stone, but it could mean several hundred dollars more for Robert Neveroski who owns a home and rents out two others.
"It gives me less available spending money. I'm paying $6,000 a year now and whatever it goes up now it will be substantial," Neveroski said.
Under the Mayor's budget proposal Scranton, if you paid $300 in property taxes this year a 50% increase would mean a $450 dollar tax bill in 2014.
There's another part of the Mayor's proposed budget that has homeowners concerned. Garbage collection fees would go up from $178 per year to $300.
Administrators hope to make more than $2 million with that hike.
The proposed increase actually brings garbage fees in the city of Scranton closer in line with some other municipalities in Lackawanna County. It would still be lower than the $350 annual garbage fee in South Abington Township.
But, back at the senior center, folks say even an extra $100 a year in garbage fees is too much.
"I think the city should go bankrupt and start all over again. We don't have the industry, we don't have the population, and the older people don't have the money they need to do these things," added Peggy Kile of Scranton.
Council has until December 15th to make changes and pass an official budget.