SCRANTON -- For the first time in at least decade, it appears the city of Scranton will not have a tax increase.
During a city council meeting Thursday night, as the first reading of the proposed 2017 budget was introduced, both council and city residents expressed both shock and excitement.
“The no tax increase, on that I’m absolutely ecstatic,” said council member Tim Perry.
“I think everyone was very happy to hear there will not be a tax increase in this year's budget and it really represents a turning point for the city in the last decade,” said council member Pat Rogan.
“I've been coming to these meetings for 14 years now and this is the first year in all these years we haven't had a tax hike,” said city resident Les Spindler.
Scranton Mayor Bill Courtright released his proposed $108 million spending plan for next year this week, which calls for no property tax hikes.
Back in 2014, the city came up with a three-year plan that called for a tax increase each year up through 2017, where taxes would have gone up by four percent next year.
But the mayor says that tax increase was avoided by several factors, including the sale of the city's parking garages that helped to refinance debt.
His administration had contract talks with the police and fire unions.
And the city settled a judgment that ordered them to pay back pay to those unions, a payment the mayor says had been racking up interest each day that the city didn’t pay by $100,000 a month.
City council unanimously passed the budget's first reading.
“Is this cause for celebration?” asked council member Wayne Evans. “Maybe for about five minutes and then we have to get back to work.”
And everyone is sold on this budget.
“But next year somebody's going to come up and say, we need a tax increase, and I'm going to ask where is the $120 million you gave when you gave away the parking,” asked one resident.
“We're banking on the proceeds from the sale of the sewer authority without first knowing how much storm water management will cost us,” said council member Bill Gaughan.
The proposed budget must be read and passed by council two more times before being adopted.
A final budget needs to be in place by next month.