SCRANTON — It was a dire message to officials in the city of Scranton: act now or the financial situation will just only get worse and worse by a lot.
Wednesday night, the mayor and a financial adviser presented city council a four-year plan to get out of its monetary mess.
The city of Scranton has been a financial disaster for decades and its residents have seen property taxes on a steady and steep increase.
Now a financial adviser hired by the city says Scranton can no longer rely on property taxes alone for revenue.
For homeowner and landlord Bob Meyers, he says he`ll believe that when it happens.
“Every year it keeps going up and up and then they supposedly have a fix and another year down the road, they’re going to say, ‘You know what? We’re going to have to raise it because this problem came up,’” said Meyers.
Mayor Bill Courtright and financial adviser Henry Amoroso presented city council with a four-year plan to get the city back on its financial feet.
The biggest burdens to the budget are debt and pension payments.
The plan would ask the city’s municipal unions to reopen their contracts now to renegotiate pensions, rather than wait until 2017.
“We met with the unions today and I think it went very well and I said to Henry on the way back to City Hall, ‘better than I expected,’” said Mayor Courtright. “I think the unions understand the city’s in very dire straits and I think they’re willing to help.”
To raise revenue, Amoroso wants to add a special non-resident earned income tax that would go only to pay for pension funding as long as the pension fund was distressed.
The city should look into selling assets, specifically the parking authority and sewer authority.
The plan calls for a property tax increase over the next three years.
There would be an 18 percent increase in 2015, a 6 percent increase in 2016, and a 4 percent increase in 2017.
However the plan would do away with the business and mercantile tax, saying that tax deters new employers from moving in.
Joshua Mast, one of the owners of Posh Restaurant, agrees.
“There’s not enough business in downtown to really be competition so we just need to get as much business downtown because then we get the workers downtown, then we get more people that want to live downtown,” said Mast.
The financial adviser says the city is in desperate need of a new property value assessment, saying the last one was done in the late 1960s.