In a split vote, Scranton City Council on Thursday introduced a $109.7 million budget for 2013 that contains a 12 percent property tax increase for residents and hikes in several other taxes, including a hoped-for commuter tax.
The council also took flak from some residents for hefty raises ranging between 19 and 33 percent in the budget for six employees, including council and administration solicitors, fire chief, business administrator and two administrative employees.
“This city is in such financial disaster. We’re close to bankruptcy and we’re giving raises up as high as 33 percent? It’s just an outrage,” resident Les Spindler told council. “This just cannot happen. You’re not going to raise my taxes and give these other people raises.”
Resident Tom Ungvarsky added, “I hope city council will reconsider and do what’s right by the residents.”
It is what happened in the interim that the county hoped to avoid.
In the past 12 weeks, the county has borrowed $21 million to clear its books of unfunded debt, including repayment of last year’s tax anticipation loan; increased property taxes 38 percent to balance its 2012 budget; and completed the overdue audit of its 2010 finances.
But all of that financial housekeeping came too late for Moody’s, which quietly withdrew its rating on the county’s $202.7 million in outstanding general obligation bonds two weeks ago after downgrading the debt to the equivalent of junk status back in September.
I am pleased to learn that Act 93 employees and PSD administrators have taken voluntary pay freezes. The teaching staff is not part of this group. The Pottstown Federation of Teachers is now involved in a contact dispute with the district that is not going well.
Teachers in the Fleetwood School District (Berks County) have been asked to take voluntary pay freezes, along with the administration, which will save the Fleetwood School District $800,000.
Teachers in the Twin Valley School District (Chester County) have been asked to take voluntary pay freezes, along with the administration, which will save the Twin Valley School District $600,000 to $700,000 a year. The Superintendent, Dr. Robert F. Pleis has already volunteered to take a pay freeze along with his colleagues at Fleetwood and Pottstown.
We give the PSD administration two Roy’s Rants thumbs up for leading by example.
The board also voted NO on “forward borrowing”. “Forward borrowing” would have allowed the district to borrow up to an additional $23 million, over and above the $28 million already authorized. The $28 million was authorized for renovations at the district’s five elementary schools. We applaud the fiscal responsibility shown by the board. PSD already has an enormous debt from the renovations at the high school and middle school. Taxpayers cannot afford more debt. Any amount over $28 million will need voter approval!