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Did Scranton Overtax?

SCRANTON -- The city of Scranton was back in court Tuesday, for the second time in a week, making arguments to keep certain taxes.

In this case, a group of residents is suing the city, saying it has overtaxed property owners.

Right now, both sides are arguing over whether the case should go to trial.

For almost a year, the city of Scranton has been fighting in court against seven of its residents. A judge's decision could move the case closer to trial.

"What I heard is I'm going to be pushing up daisies before this is settled!" said Marie Schumacher.

Schumacher was one of a handful of city taxpayers who sat in on the hearing that could affect everyone who pays taxes in Scranton.

The residents say Scranton violates a state law called Act 511 but the city says its own taxing laws, called a Home Rule Charter, trump Act 511.

"The city, amazingly, is disagreeing in that their audit where they've labeled something, they've called it Act 511 for 15 years, with 15 years of audits, and now they're claiming they didn't mean that. It was something else and that the court should listen to them and not us, the label that they used," said the plaintiff's attorney John McGovern.

The city also says it is allowed to bend some state laws due to another act -- Act 47, which labels Scranton as financially distressed. But Scranton is planning to shed that label in a few years.

"I don't think it's going to delay the exit plan," said Mayor Bill Courtright.  "It's possible it could drag out, but we're going to fight for the property owners, we're not going to stop until we win."

Losing the case could affect the city's financial recovery since it would be required to cut down on the taxes it collects, but one of the seven plaintiffs, Gary St. Fleur, says it has fallen to the taxpayers for too long.

"I'm worrying about the taxpayer," St. Fleur said. "The taxpayer is already hurting. They are paying into a city that's failed to get its budget in order, failed to plan inadequately, and this just shows gross incompetence on the part of the city. We need to stop throwing money into a situation which shows poor performance, poor management, and poor foresight."

If the city loses this case, they wouldn't have to pay any money back to the taxpayers, but they would be required to set the extra money aside to use in later years.


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