Scranton Residents Vent Anger At First Meeting Of 2013

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SCRANTON -- Scranton city leaders continue to look for other options to cover the loss of revenue from the rejected commuter tax.

The city’s $109 million spending plan included a tax on non-residents who work in Scranton. That was denied by judges at the Lackawanna County Courthouse just before the New Year.

It may be a new year in the Electric City but at Scranton City Council’s first meeting of 2013, it was more of the same. Residents came out to vent their anger over the uncertainty of where Scranton’s financial situation stands.

“I went over your budget and really, (there are) more holes in that budget than Swiss cheese. Everywhere in there your numbers don’t add up,” said Andy Sbaraglia.

“This budget is more of a dream than an actual reality,” he added.

Last month council approved the city’s $109 million spending plan for 2013 that included a commuter tax on non-residents who work in Scranton. Council said that would have generated $2.5 million in 2013.

Just before the New Year, three judges at the Lackawanna County Courthouse denied that tax. Now, city leaders say they will be looking at other options to cover that loss.

“I believe the sale of a city asset is the most likely and the mayor has also mentioned that he’d be considering additional borrowing, but again, I believe that council would prefer to see the sale of the asset,” said council president Janet Evans.

The city is also looking for payment in lieu of taxes from non-profit organizations in the city. At council’s meeting, they accepted a $1,000 payment from the Covenant Presbyterian Church. Still, taxpayers are skeptical that other non-profits will make payments.

“We’re borrowing money for everything. We’re so far behind on that it’s ridiculous. All of our tax revenue (is) going to pay wages and we keep talking about the non-profits,” said Lee Morgan.

This budget also has a 22 percent property tax increase meaning the average homeowner will pay an about $100 more in taxes.

“The paper said foreclosures were up 91 percent, something like that, and here we are raising taxes again,” said Ron Ellmen.

Council said at the meeting no decision has been made on whether the ruling on the commuter tax will be appealed.