Scranton Wants To Declare Bankruptcy

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County

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

SCRANTON, PA — When Detroit filed for bankruptcy, hundreds of residents took to the streets to protest what they saw as a drastic approach to fixing the city’s budget problems.

But in this hilly town of 76,000 in northeastern Pennsylvania, residents have a different view of Chapter 9: They want the city to declare bankruptcy. And soon.

“The silent majority would like to see bankruptcy,” said Bob “Ozzie” Quinn, president of the Scranton and Lackawanna County Taxpayers Association. “Basically, it’s down to a point where people cannot afford to pay the taxes and are moving out of town.”

Faced with a $20 million deficit, Scranton had to do some tricky maneuvering to balance its budget and avoid defaulting on loans. Most of this maneuvering has involved increasing taxes and fees paid by the people who still live in the town, which has seen its population drop by half since the 1930s.

Read more: http://www.timesherald.com/general-news/20140111/scranton-wants-to-declare-bankruptcy

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Scranton Parking Garage Revenues Not Meeting Expectations

After four months of Scranton‘s parking garages being operated by a private firm, the bottom line could end up short by $300,000 to $500,000 over a year, according to court documents and a receiver overseeing the garages.

Central Parking took over operation of the city’s five garages in mid-September when the firm was hired by court-appointed receiver Mike Washo.

“Of course it’s a cause for concern,” Mr. Washo said. “It’s cause for concern for Central Parking, for the receivership and for the city.”

Scranton is banking on the private management of the garages to maximize revenue and minimize expenses, so the city doesn’t have to pay as much as it otherwise might to cover the debt of the Scranton Parking Authority, said Mr. Washo and city Business Administrator Ryan McGowan said.

Read more:  http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/scranton-parking-garage-revenues-not-meeting-expectations-1.1447895

Scranton’s Parking-Garage Rates Won’t Decrease; Chamber Seeks Parking Input

As Scranton leaders are considering increasing hours, days and rates of downtown parking meters, some business owners want to see the city’s parking-garage rates reduced.

However, the court-appointed receiver in charge of the garages and their rates, Mike Washo, said he has no plans to lower garage rates, because a reduction would drain revenue from the authority and further burden city taxpayers to fund any shortfall that may arise from reduced rates.

“We don’t believe that any reduction in parking garage rates at this time will generate additional customers to justify the reduction in rates,” Mr. Washo said. “At the end of the day, we’ll end up with less revenue.”

In recent weeks, a plan by Scranton’s mayor and city council to hire a private firm, Standard Parking, to manage the city’s on-street parking meters has raised numerous questions and concerns among downtown businesses, residents and council members.  Citing Standard Parking’s estimates, council members think the city can net an additional $1.8 million a year by switching parking-meter management from the inactive Scranton Parking Authority to Standard Parking.  Under this plan, which was tabled Feb. 7 by council, meter hours would extend from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday to 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday.  Ten-hour meters also would increase from $1 an hour to $1.50 an hour.

Read more:  http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/scranton-s-parking-garage-rates-won-t-decrease-chamber-seeks-parking-input-1.1444474

Bank Sues Scranton, Parking Authority And Receiver Over Loan Default

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County

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

Landmark Community Bank on Friday sued Scranton, its parking authority and the authority’s court-appointed receiver over a $2.6 million loan default.

Landmark loaned the Scranton Parking Authority $2.9 million in September 2011, but the SPA has not paid on the loan since the authority was stripped last year of most of its functions, funding and power.

The lawsuit was not unexpected because Landmark’s attorney, Robert Gownley, last year threatened to sue if Scranton City Council terminated a 1995 cooperation agreement between the city and SPA that was used as the basis for collateral and security of the 2011 loan.  The Landmark loan was secured by the 10 percent of parking meter revenue that SPA receives under the 1995 cooperation agreement.

The lawsuit claims that city administration solicitor Paul Kelly, who at the time the loan was made in 2011 was solicitor for both the city and SPA, had told Landmark that the city could not unilaterally cancel the cooperation agreement between the city and authority.

Read more:  http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/bank-sues-scranton-parking-authority-and-receiver-over-loan-default-1.1442049

University Of Scranton Refuses To Pay New City Parking Tax

The University of Scranton is suing the city over a new tax city officials enacted this year on parking garages and parking lots and is refusing to pay it until a judge weighs in.

The university filed suit in Lackawanna County Court on Friday, asking a judge to declare the university – a nonprofit – exempt from the city’s 15 percent tax on parking facilities where patrons pay to park.

City officials have said the tax is critical to bringing in more revenue for the financially distressed city.  Council’s 2012 budget estimates the tax will bring in $500,000.

If a judge ruled in the university’s favor, city Business Administrator Ryan McGowan said the city would lose out on a “substantial amount” of revenue from the tax.  He could not immediately provide specific numbers when contacted about the suit Friday afternoon.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/university-of-scranton-refuses-to-pay-new-city-parking-tax-1.1369775

Scranton City Council Targets Parking Garages, Meters

The beleaguered Scranton Parking Authority may have its five parking garages under outside management as soon as today, Scranton City Council announced Thursday.

Meanwhile, council also introduced a proposed ordinance Thursday to terminate on Oct. 8 the city’s parking-meter cooperation agreement with SPA, under which SPA receives 10 percent of meter revenues.

Both actions – one dealing with parking garages and the other dealing with meters – would remove all control of SPA’s two revenue streams from the SPA’s board, which is appointed by Mayor Chris Doherty, according to council President Janet Evans and council solicitor Boyd Hughes.

Regarding outside management, the SPA’s new court-appointed receiver, former Lackawanna County Commissioner Mike Washo, is expected to hire a firm called Central Parking, Mr. Hughes said during council’s meeting. He said Central Parking is the second-largest parking management company in the nation.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/scranton-council-targets-parking-garages-meters-1.1369583

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 Reverses Course On Parking Bond Money

In a stunning about-face, Scranton City Council on Thursday voted to introduce a measure to cover a debt of the Scranton Parking Authority, only a week after refusing to do so and plunging it into default.

But it would appear to be only a temporary fix, as council solicitor Boyd Hughes cited a June 7 notice of default from bond trustee Bank of New York Mellon saying a takeover of the beleaguered authority is inevitable in 30 days because SPA has preliminarily defaulted on four other counts, including:

- Failing to submit to the trustee an independent audit.

- Failing to submit to the trustee an annual budget of facilities prepared by a consulting engineer.

- Failing to keep financial records separate from city records and have them certified in an annual audit by city Controller Roseann Novembrino.

- Failing to have an engineer perform an annual review of physical status of facilities.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/scranton-city-council-reverses-course-on-parking-bond-money-1.1326619

Bank Yanks Loan Offer To Scranton After City Council Allows Parking Authority To Default

The effect of Scranton City Council allowing the Scranton Parking Authority to default on a debt was immediate on Friday, officials said.

The bank that the city had been hoping to get financing from to be able to keep the city afloat this year, M&T Bank, backed out first thing Friday morning because of the default, said Mayor Chris Doherty and city Business Administrator Ryan McGowan.

On Thursday night, council voted against covering a $940,000 SPA debt that was due Friday, thus allowing the authority to default even though the city had backed the debt.

“The city defaulted on the guarantee. This default has left us with nowhere to go,” Mr. McGowan said of the city’s hopes for getting loans.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/bank-yanks-loan-offer-to-scranton-after-council-allows-parking-authority-to-default-1.1324183

Default Looms For Scranton Parking Authority As City Council Refuses To Pay SPA’s $1.4 Million Debt

Default is looming for the Scranton Parking Authority as city council refuses to release $1.4 million the authority needs by June 1 to pay debt, officials said.

SPA notified the council last fall it would have a budget deficit in 2012 and would need council to fill the gap. Council set the funds aside in a contingency account that only council can release, thus forcing SPA and Mayor Chris Doherty’s administration to come back to council for the funds.

As the city backs the SPA debt in question – and with the June 1 deadline fast approaching – the administration on May 10 requested emergency legislation from the council for the $1.4 million.

But the council refused and demanded that SPA executive director Robert Scopelliti and city Business Administrator Ryan McGowan first appear before council on May 17 to explain why the funds are needed. Councilman Pat Rogan and council Solicitor Boyd Hughes went so far as to say SPA should be allowed to go into default.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/default-looms-for-scranton-parking-authority-as-city-council-refuses-to-pay-spa-s-1-4-million-debt-1.1318104

Scranton Embroiled In Dispute Over Another Short-Term Loan

Facing yet another cash-flow crisis, Scranton is trying to borrow a $2.75 million tax-anticipation note to pay routine daily bills and payroll.

The city administration has been negotiating with Landmark Community Bank for the TAN, but city council has balked at the bank’s demand that, in exchange for a TAN, the city must back an unsecured $2.95 million loan that the bank gave to the Scranton Parking Authority last year, council members said at Thursday’s meeting.

TANs are fairly routine, short-term loans that municipalities borrow to cover cash-flow gaps until tax revenues come in. However, the TAN dust-up is another example of how little is routine when it comes to the city’s long-standing fiscal challenges and divisions between the administration and council.

City held hostage?

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/scranton-embroiled-in-dispute-over-another-short-term-loan-1.1293590#ixzz1qqTjMwfK