Eric Frein in Custody

Mayor: Tax On Commuters Looks Promising

SCRANTON — The city council in Scranton is set to vote this week on a tax to raise money for the city’s struggling pension fund.

It would be a tax paid by people who don’t live in Scranton but work there.

The city of Scranton has tried to pass a so-called commuter tax in recent years but it was turned down by the courts. Mayor Bill Courtright says the latest tax he’s proposing wouldn’t need court approval because it would go directly into the city’s pension fund which the mayor says is one of the most poorly funded pensions in the state.

When Mayor Courtright rolled out his financial plan for the city last week he said everyone would have to share in Scranton’s financial recovery.

His first move is asking city council to approve a tax on people who work in Scranton, but do not call it home.

“If we were going to go with just property tax, I would have to raise property tax upwards of 119 percent. I can’t in good conscience raise property taxes 119 percent when there’s other options out there, such as act 205,” Mayor Courtright said.

Act 205 is a state law that allows the city to tax commuters without court approval so long as the money feeds Scranton’s broken pension system that supports police, fire, DPW, and other unions.

The city of Scranton’s pension fund is labeled “severely distressed” one of the worst in the state. But the city needs that designation in order to levy this tax against people who live here.

One of the city’s largest employers is the University of Scranton and many of its employees, like Caitlyn Hollingshead of Plains, already spend money getting to and from work every day.

“Especially, being a commuter, coming to Scranton a half hour each way every day, it’s a lot of little things that add up that you don’t even factor in,” Hollingshead said.

Commuters don’t really have a say in sharing the city’s financial burden. If all goes as planned, the mayor says it could be imposed before the end of the year.

It would be a tax of .75 percent, or about $375 a year for someone with a salary of $50,000.

“If everyone chips in a dollar, for everyone, for every person, it’s not going to hurt each person but it’s really going to accumulate when you have thousands and thousands of people here. So, I would say it’s overblown, $375 a year,” said Neill Ackerman of Scranton.

Mayor Courtright says if the tax on commuters is passed by city council, the state will decide how long it will have to stay in place to get the pension fund out of the red.

The mayor estimates the commuter tax would raise $5 million a year.

26 comments

  • MBNEPA

    “If we were going to go with just property tax, I would have to raise property tax upwards of 119 percent. I can’t in good conscience raise property taxes 119 percent when there’s other options out there, such as act 205,” Mayor Courtright said.

    So, raise their taxes. The city created the debt. The city residents are using the services that are unionized. 40 years ago I enjoyed going to Scranton. Now that city is gone.

    What conscience????

    The only outcome I see for handling municipal unions is the bankruptcy of the cities. At that point the union contracts can be broken. And that is unfortunate because there are many deserving municipal workers that will get hurt when this happens. But the funding just isn’t there and at this rate it never will be.

  • Carole Swiontek (keep confidential)

    Just add the .75 to the $52 I pay for their police, fire, ambulance, plus the money I pay for parking. It’s more than my township that I live in gets. Why even get a raise, everyone else gets a piece of it! CS

    • warlock

      Well you can get a job in your township and save some money but my guess is there are no jobs in your dinky little town so you come to Scranton and take one from a resident well boo hoo

      • Obama

        Took a job from a resident? Sorry my wife is more qualified than you or your neighbor, and also we’re sorry we can afford to live in a beautiful more expensive suburb of Scranton. Get a grip on life.

  • chris

    why is there a pension at all….I have to put my own money out for retire….so should they!!!!! PROBLEM SOLVED

  • titsmagee

    & also people that live in scranton and work in Dickson ,dunmore, jermyn or whatever should pay extra to the towns they work in too!

  • titsmagee

    Small towns are suffering I would rather take that extra tax $$ and put “My MOney” into my own town . people spend enough money gas commuting to Scranton why should they pay more. you should be grateful people even wanna drive through there,

  • Charlie Lucky

    They should just put a fence around Scranton, and then charge admission fee. People will come from all over to pay and get in. Just to watch the sideshow, that we call COUNTY GOVERNMENT!!!! Lackawanna County Population: 213,931 (2013), we have too much government exspense, for that amount of people…but just keep raising the taxes…or types of taxes……… C’MON MAAAAAAN!!!!! Anyone in business knows, you can’t spend more than what you make.

  • WNEP Censors Truth

    I guarantee that within 15-20 years they will be entertaining the thought of grabbing everything between Wilkes-Barre and Scranton, to make it one b ig metropolitan area and s uck the taxes out of the smaller towns. They will end up turning h uge areas into slums, as they focus the money on “downtown”. I had to space out the words s uck, b ig, h uge, because WNEP’s filter cannot even handle context properly.

    • WNEP Censors Truth

      Also, somebody there must have a pretty dirty mind to consider those words “unacceptable”.

  • Jh3

    How about spending only what you take in? Perhaps the City should not make promises, basic math would not allow it to keep.
    The commuter tax failed last time because people refused to pay it.
    I moved my business out of the city!

  • MC

    Notice that no one is talking about eliminating the defined benefit pension plan for new employees. That is the only real long term solution.

  • domari nolo

    Taxes that’s a funny word. Rhymes with Axis like Axis of Evil. Get it your money is evil. “In god we trust” haha maybe you sheep do. I stick to “trust in god”.

  • SteveL

    Time to pay up to feed the union monster. Give a round of applause to the real organized crime in NEPA: the municipal unions. They have been pillaging the working man for years. Salaries of 60K plus after 2 years? A list of many making over 100k a year? A huge list out on on comp or disability? Cadillac benefit plans? Sweetheart pension deals? Just shakedown everyone else to continue gorging yourselves like pigs at the taxpayer trough.

  • Big Al

    Taxation without representation..I don’t work or live in Scranton, but it does not sound fair, in fact, it sounds like something that could make the colonies go to war with Great Britain over!

  • BK

    Our forefather’s would vomit in their mouths if they read this article. How bout when I get to work tomorrow you chain me to a radiator give me some water and a piece of bread and keep my whole check. Guess what? We’re all slaves to these greedy, arrogant, rich, and pompous politicians, their money, and big business. What the article above says is that I work my can off everyday so I can pay someone else to sit at home counting my money during their retirement. That .75% could have gone into my 401k but by all means I’ll work until I’m 90, die and get buried in a cardboard box so you can retire after 20 years and enjoy margaritas on a beach somewhere. I’ve worked since I’ve been 15 and am proud to earn my keep in society but to punish me after the fact for choosing to work anywhere is “unconstitutional”.

  • Jim Stefanovich

    You cant get your own house in order so you go to your neighbor. You make your own problems and want someone else to bail you out. Take responsibility for your own actions,buck up,and take care of your own problems.

  • Franko

    Why should people who don’t live in Scranton share in their recovery — It’s their city who chooses to over pay city workers and give out benefits that the employees pays little or nothing into, it’s the city who chooses not to pay their bills, it’s the people in the city of Scranton that keep electing incompetent people into office — But I have to pay for that ?
    Maybe they should freeze pay, eliminate unnecessary jobs, stop creating positions so that the city workers kids have jobs in the summer at everyone else’s expense…
    How about we all just set up tool booths at the beginning of each of our city/town/villages/township/county borders and charge everyone who travels into our areas — because if you follow Scranton’s logic, then it is only fair to charge everyone that comes into your area.

  • Democrat in YOUR pockets

    If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street
    If you try to sit, I’ll tax your seat
    If you get too cold I’ll tax the heat
    If you take a walk, I’ll tax your feet
    Taxman!
    Cos I’m the taxman, yeah I’m the taxman.

  • Cj

    Why should the people who dont reside in Scranton be the ones who are solely responsible for helping fund these hurting city pension programs. The taxpayers of the city, who receive these police, fire and Dpw public works should be the ones paying for it. Not the people who don’t.

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