Scranton Eyes $20 Million In Borrowing And Second Dedicated Tax Hike For 2013

Scranton City Council on Thursday unanimously introduced a $21 million bond ordinance to fund new debt and an increase in mandatory pension contributions and refinance old debt.

While the introduction was unanimous, council had questions about the bond proposal and agreed to ask administration officials to attend an upcoming caucus to explain it.

Mayor Chris Doherty wanted council to adopt on an emergency basis this legislation and another ordinance for a dedicated tax increase to pay for $9.75 million in unfunded debt, council President Janet Evans said.

However, because council received the ordinances late Wednesday, she said, council and its solicitor, Boyd Hughes, had not had enough time to review them and refused to enact them on an emergency basis – which requires introducing, advancing and adopting them all at the same meeting.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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