Scranton Mayor Vetoes Council’s Revisions To His Budget

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mayor Chris Doherty on Friday vetoed city council’s revisions to his proposed $130.2 million budget.

Council will hold a special meeting Monday at 5:30 p.m. to vote on whether to override or sustain the veto, council President Janet Evans said.

A split council on Thursday raised and lowered some salaries and added two positions in the mayor’s budget. The amendments did not change the budget total or the 57 percent tax increase and 69 percent trash collection fee hike.

Council voted 3-2 on many of the amendments in a split that had Councilmen Bob McGoff, Pat Rogan and Jack Loscombe, who are all returning to council in 2014, forming a bloc to pass the amendments, and Council President Janet Evans and Councilman Frank Joyce, who are departing council, dissenting.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/scranton-mayor-vetoes-council-s-revisions-to-his-budget-1.1601207

PEL: Scranton Faces $20 Million Deficit Next Year; Needs To Raise Taxes

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Scranton city government’s budget outlook for next year continues to worsen as the city now faces a possible deficit of nearly $20 million for 2014, according to the city’s financial-recovery coordinator.

That state-appointed Act 47 coordinator, Pennsylvania Economy League, also urges the city to craft a “realistic and responsible” budget for next year that closes the structural deficit and lists as options unspecified hikes in both the real-estate (property) and earned-income (wage) taxes, and an increase in the city’s annual garbage fee.

“I think the letter speaks for itself,” Mr. Cross said in a phone interview. “It shows where the city is in terms of recovery-plan progress and shows the challenges that we always spoke of for 2014 being a challenging year.”

Read the letter here

City Business Administrator Gina McAndrew said the 2014 budget is in the works. She would not rule out any increases in taxes or fees but declined to say what may be under consideration.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/pel-scranton-faces-20-million-deficit-next-year-needs-to-raise-taxes-1.1566385

Legislators: Montco, SE Pa. Need More Transportation Funding

SEPTA logo with text

SEPTA logo with text (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Editor’s note:  This is obvious.  Just try and drive to work in Montgomery County. Traffic is horrendous!

WHITEMARSH ­­— The House Democratic Policy Committee held a two-hour Wednesday morning at the township building to draw attention to the need to increase transportation funding in the region.

The general consensus among the experts offering testimony was that Pennsylvania, and Southeastern Pennsylvania in particular, needs more state funding for mass transit, road and bridge repairs.

State Rep. Mary Jo Daley, D-148th Dist., said Whitemarsh is a center of transportation with major roadways including Germantown Pike and Ridge Pike and six train stations on the regional rail lines.  Daley moderated the hearing.

“I have been a SEPTA rider my entire life,” Daley said. “I’m not sure what it would be like to not have public transportation.  It is a really flexible system that benefits the area.”

Read more: http://www.pottsmerc.com/article/20130731/NEWS03/130739823/legislators-montco-se-pa-need-more-transportation-funding#full_story

School Merger A Hard Sell At Exeter Forum

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United Stat...

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United States Public School Districts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Exeter School District residents made it clear Tuesday night that a full merger with the Antietam School District would be a hard sell to them.

“It seems as if it’s a white knight issue, with Exeter rescuing a school district that’s looking at this as a win-win opportunity,” resident Kim Farinelli told the Exeter School Board and more than 150 attendees who packed the cafeteria at the Reiffton School.

“I don’t see why there’s any reason to have this discussion,” resident Nikki Smith added. “It seems all negative for us and all positive for Antietam.”

The two were among many who took to the podium to voice their opinions at the Exeter community forum, which focused on the findings of a feasibility study on a possible merger between the two districts.

Read more:  http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=474451

Spencer Unveils Bold Plan For Reading

English: Downtown Reading, Pennsylvania; with ...

English: Downtown Reading, Pennsylvania; with Berks County courthouse on left; July 2007 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Reading Mayor Vaughn D. Spencer on Thursday outlined an ambitious agenda of more than a dozen initiatives, some already begun, to improve the finances and conditions of the city and its neighborhoods.

Speaking to several dozen people attending the Pennsylvania Economy League’s Issues Forum at the Berkshire Country Club in Bern Township, Spencer recounted his campaign themes and said: “Those are the promises; what people expect is performance.”

He then led the audience through a rapid-fire explanation of where the city is and where it’s planning to go in several key areas.

He said the city has set goals for each area and is requiring any department initiatives to match those goals, with their results to be measured.

Read more:  http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=472999

Judges Reject Scranton Commuter Tax

A panel of three judges Wednesday rejected Scranton‘s petition for a 1 percent wage tax on the nearly 23,000 nonresidents who work in the city but live elsewhere.

The city may make up the resulting budget shortfall next year by borrowing more next year than had been anticipated or selling an unspecified city asset, Mayor Chris Doherty said.

In their 50-page ruling, Lackawanna County Judges Terrence Nealon and Robert Mazzoni and visiting Pike County Judge Harold Thomson stated the city failed to prove its case for a 1 percent earned income tax on the 22,655 nonresidents working in the city.

The city failed to pass a required hurdle of having “substantially implemented” a revised recovery plan, by failing to fulfill two revenue generators in that plan.  Those included failing to obtain a commitment from a lender for a lease-back borrowing measure to be undertaken next year; and failing to obtain commitments from nonprofit entities for significantly increased donations, according to the ruling.

Read more:  http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/judges-reject-scranton-commuter-tax-1.1418855

PEL: Scranton Needs More Than 12% Tax Hike

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Scranton‘s state-designated recovery coordinator, Pennsylvania Economy League, has told city officials they need to raise property taxes next year higher than the 12 percent that the city budget for 2013 proposes. Exactly how much higher was not stated.

In a letter received Thursday, PEL Executive Director Gerald Cross notes that the city has not dedicated a tax millage toward paying for the city’s second unfunded debt package approved by a court this year, of $9.75 million. In that case, Judge Peter O’Brien, a senior visiting judge from Monroe County, on Oct. 31 ordered that a tax millage be dedicated to paying back this unfunded debt.

It was the same arrangement the city sought and received in January, when a different judge, Senior Monroe County Judge Jerome Cheslock, approved the city’s first unfunded debt, of $9.85 million, and ordered that this amount be paid back with a dedicated tax millage over 10 years.

The first unfunded debt package translated into the 12 percent tax hike in the proposed budget for next year, city officials have said.

Read more:  http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/pel-scranton-needs-more-than-12-tax-hike-1.1413187

Mount Penn Formally Ends Merger Talks With Lower Alsace

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United Stat...

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United States with township and municipal boundaries (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lower Alsace Supervisor John Theodossiou made one final plea asking Mount Penn Borough Council to reopen merger talks between the two municipalities.

“I understand there are a lot of differences and things got derailed,” he said. “At the very least go to the next meeting.”

But Theodossiou’s effort landed with a thud, as Mount Penn council voted on Tuesday to send letters to the Pennsylvania Economy League and Berks County formally ending the merger study.

Read more:

http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=428047

City Of Reading: A Study In Contrasts

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Berks County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Berks County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Reading Redevelopment Authority on Wednesday unveiled a thick sheaf of brightly colored graphics and numerous data tables that all point to one map in the middle – a map the authority and the city say will guide future city economic development efforts.

That map shows where the high-value housing markets are in the Reading area and the location of steady markets, transitional neighborhoods and distressed areas, all in specific detail.

It’s part of the market value analysis that The Reinvestment Fund, Philadelphia, completed for the authority and released at a Pennsylvania Economy League breakfast at the Berkshire Country Club, Bern Township.

“What the MVA (market value analysis) basically does is help you focus your meager resources and channel your efforts on nodes of strength,” said Adam Mukerji, authority executive director.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=423215

SAPA Plan Included In Scranton’s Updated Recovery Plan

More than two years after Scranton City Council slammed the door on a regional planning initiative, the Pennsylvania Economy League has pushed it wide open.

Tucked inside Scranton’s 60-page updated 2012 Recovery Plan, which council accepted Thursday, is one paragraph suggesting council will reconsider joining the Scranton-Abingtons Planning Association Comprehensive Plan.

“The PEL sneaked it in the recovery plan at the 11th hour, right before our final vote,” Councilman Jack Loscombe said. “I still feel the same way, though. I don’t see how the plan benefits the city economically.”

The plan, which has been adopted by nine municipalities, provides a policy guide for future land use, economic revitalization, open space conservation and historic resource preservation among the SAPA members. Scranton is the last SAPA member, of 11, to consider adopting the comprehensive plan, according to the updated recovery plan.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/sapa-plan-included-in-the-city-s-updated-recovery-plan-1.1364607

Scranton Gets $6.2M Short-Term Loan; State Sets Public Hearing On Plan For Today

Editor’s note:  We are pleased to see that the mayor and council president have put aside their differences and are working together.  It’s making a difference!

Like dominoes falling, Scranton has finally adopted a revised recovery plan, and because of that the city now will receive a $2.2 million state aid package and a $6.25 million short-term bank loan that will allow the city to pay bills and payrolls while continuing to seek long-term borrowing to fund its 2012 budget.

The flurry of separate, yet related, developments has bought the city some time to resolve its short-term financial crisis, however the city still needs to secure other borrowing to end the year in black, Mayor Chris Doherty and council President Janet Evans said.

The stage was set with the city’s proposed revised recovery plan having received approval in recent days from its Act 47 recovery coordinator, Pennsylvania Economy League.  That approval will allow the city to receive the $2.2 million state aid package from PEL’s overseer, the state Department of Community and Economic Development.  With PEL and DCED on board with the city’s recovery plan and the state aid package on the way, the city was able to secure on Wednesday night a $6.25 million tax- anticipation note from Amalgamated Bank of New York and Washington, D.C., the mayor and Mrs. Evans announced late Thursday afternoon in front of City Hall, shortly before the council meeting.

“This buys us time,” Mr. Doherty said of the bank loan and state aid package.  “With the recovery plan being passed, it sends a positive message for our future borrowing.”

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/city-gets-6-2m-short-term-loan-state-sets-public-hearing-on-plan-for-today-1.1363190

Scranton City Council Holds Hearing On Recovery Plan

In a first in several years, Scranton Mayor Chris Doherty on Thursday attended a city council meeting that was a public hearing on their joint revised recovery plan.

The mayor – who usually bears the brunt of a barrage of negative comments and criticism from council and some regular attendees at weekly council meetings – had not attended a council session in about six years, council President Janet Evans said.

However, the city’s financial crisis has finally made for some strange bedfellows between the mayor and council majority, who usually are mortal political enemies. After months of a bitter mayor/council stalemate over revising the city’s Act 47 recovery plan that would be acceptable to banks and the city’s recovery coordinator, Pennsylvania Economy League, the mayor and Mrs. Evans reached an accord July 27. As a result, she said she asked the mayor to attend the hearing, and he agreed.

“It was a milestone,” Mrs. Evans said of the mayor’s appearance. “We’re very pleased to be working with him.”

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/scranton-city-council-holds-hearing-on-recovery-plan-1.1360066

Scranton City Council Sets Public Hearing On Recovery Plan

English: Downtown , USA

English: Downtown , USA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Scranton City Council on Thursday tabled a revised recovery plan but set a public hearing on the proposal for next week and a vote for adoption for the following week.

Council President Janet Evans said efforts are under way to further revise the consensus recovery plan.  It was reached July 27 by her and Mayor Chris Doherty after months of stalemate, but raised concerns from the city’s Act 47 recovery coordinator, Pennsylvania Economy League, that much of its revenue was speculative.

“There are adjustments being made to it, and it’s ongoing,” Mrs. Evans said.  “I’m hoping that all changes are complete prior to the public hearing.”

At the Aug. 2 meeting, Mrs. Evans said the mayor/council consensus plan was a “take it-or-leave it” proposition for PEL.  Asked after the meeting if she had backed away from that stance, Mrs. Evans said no.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/scranton-council-sets-public-hearing-on-recovery-plan-1.1357001

Blue Cross Sues Scranton After City Defaults On $2 Million Note

Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania filed a lawsuit Wednesday against Scranton seeking $2.05 million owed by the city in a promissory note from last fall.

The city executed a note on Oct. 27 promising to pay Blue Cross $2 million in unpaid bills by Jan. 5, the lawsuit states. But the city failed to pay and that constituted a default, the lawsuit states.

As of Wednesday, no payment had yet been made and the lawsuit seeks the principal amount of $2 million as well as 5 percent interest that accrued to $58,904 from Jan. 6 to Wednesday, for a total amount sought of $2,058,904, according to the complaint.

Blue Cross has been one of the city’s largest vendors with bills that have gone unpaid under the city’s financial crisis. As such, the lawsuit was not necessarily unexpected, said Mayor Chris Doherty, adding that he is in contact regularly with Blue Cross about the situation and the firm is continuing to provide health care coverage for the city’s employees.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/blue-cross-sues-scranton-after-city-defaults-on-2-million-note-1.1356343

State Extends Deadline For Scranton Recovery Plan After PEL Raises Concerns

Hours after receiving a “rejection” of its revised recovery plan by a state-appointed recovery coordinator, Scranton City Council on Thursday forged ahead with introducing the plan anyway.

The council voted 3-1 to introduce an ordinance to implement the revised plan that was agreed upon last Friday by Mayor Chris Doherty, council President Janet Evans and council finance chairman Frank Joyce.

The plan then was sent for review to the city’s Act 47 recovery coordinator, Pennsylvania Economy League, which also would have to OK the plan before it would take effect.

On Thursday, shortly before the council’s meeting, PEL issued a letter to the city detailing numerous concerns about the recovery plan, chiefly that much of its revenue sources that are alternatives to real estate taxes – such as a commuter tax and sales taxes and significantly increased voluntary donations from nonprofits – are not guaranteed to occur. PEL wants to the city to identify backup revenues sources should speculative revenue sources never materialize.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/state-extends-deadline-for-scranton-recovery-plan-after-pel-raises-concerns-1.1353735

Scranton Commuter Tax Eyed In Compromise Plan

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Just when Colleen Rhue thought she was out, Scranton is trying to pull her back in.

The downtown office worker recently moved to Moosic to escape the city’s 3.4 percent wage tax on residents.

“Now it looks like the money I saved from moving, they want to take from me,” Ms. Rhue said Tuesday, reacting to a possible 1 percent commuter tax included in the city’s latest recovery plan proposal.

While the tax will be decided through the courts, support for the levy seems strong among city residents, who pay for police and fire protection and infrastructure.  Support drops off at the city limits.

Read more:  http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/commuter-tax-eyed-in-compromise-plan-1.1353047

Enrollment Increase Projected In Boyertown School District

Anticipating steep enrollment growth in coming years, the Boyertown School Board received an assessment Monday of the district’s ability to accommodate new waves of students in schools that are nearing, if not above, capacity.

In a presentation before six board members, representatives from the Harrisburg-based architecture and engineering firm EI Associates shared their finding that the district’s elementary schools were ill-suited for projected enrollment growth.

Their feasibility study, authorized in May, found that the Colebrookdale and Gilbertsville elementary schools were over capacity by 16 and 83 students, respectively.

Across its seven elementary schools, the district is at 96 percent capacity, with 3,761 students enrolled and a capacity of 3,900.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=402183

Mount Penn Borough and Lower Alsace Township Agree To Merger Study

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United Stat...

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United States with township and municipal boundaries (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After much discussion and two joint meetings, Mount Penn Borough Council and the Lower Alsace supervisors agreed Monday to move forward with a study of the pros and cons of merging or consolidating the municipalities.

Council then voted to approve a $22,500 contract with the Pennsylvania Economy League for the study. Lower Alsace had approved the contract in May after the first joint municipality meeting, contingent on Mount Penn’s involvement.

Councilman Thomas Smith said the study would provide the information needed to help supervisors and council decide whether merging or consolidating would be beneficial to both municipalities and their residents.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=399499