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No Increase In Property Taxes In Scranton Mayor’s Proposed 2019 Budget

November 16, 2018

SCRANTON — Mayor Bill Courtright proposed a 2019 city budget Friday that does not raise property taxes, but maintains the $300 annual trash fee and provides money for pay raises and a few new positions. The 2019 budget reflects an ongoing financial recovery and impacts from sewer sale and parking lease “monetization” deals completed in 2016, officials said. Next year would be the third consecutive year without an increase in property taxes, as there were none in 2017 and 2018. Other taxes, including the 2.4 percent city wage tax, business privilege/mercantile, real estate transfer, and local services taxes, also would remain the same in 2019. “In effect, the 2019 budget continues to pivot from crises to recovery,” city Business Administrator David Bulzoni said in a narrative contained within the budget. Scranton City Council will hold a public caucus Monday at 5 p.m. at City Hall on the budget proposal, according to a public notice of that session published in The Times-Tribune. Later Monday, during council’s regular meeting at 6 p.m., council will vote on introduction of the budget and its underlying ordinance. The introduction is the first of three votes council will take on the budget, and will be followed in coming weeks by a second vote on advancement and a third vote on adoption. Some other budget highlights include: n A $110 million total budget for 2019 would be $3 million higher than 2018, with the increase mainly in state and federal reimbursements. n Some revenue categories would rise, while others would fall. For example, though property tax rates would stay the same, collections are budgeted to drop slightly. Conversely, while the wage tax rate would not go up, collections are budgeted to increase by more than $1 million, from $28.1 million in 2018 to $29.2 million in 2019, partly a reflection of larger economic trends. n In expenditures, total employee compensation, which includes standard salaries and other salary components, as well as health insurance costs and pension contributions, would fall $2.4 million, from $64.2 million in 2018 to $61.8 million in 2019, mainly from a decrease in the required pension contribution. A financial move recently undertaken by the city revalued the pension system and lowered the city’s mandatory pension obligation. n The budget also calls for some new positions, including a project coordinator in the Law Department solicitor office, to help draft ‘requests for proposals’ and assist in monitoring and developing projects. The Law Department also would replace a full-time assistant city solicitor with two part time solicitors. The full-time assistant solicitor position added in 2018 did not attract any candidates. n The Parks and Recreation Department would get a new position, a director’s assistant, and additional part-time employees. n The traffic/sign maintenance position in the Department of Public Works also would go from a part-time to a full-time position. n Sustaining progress in an overall improved financial climate in the city also could get boosts from broad economic development initiatives, including the city offering tax abatements on improvements, and new, federally designated opportunity zones in the city that offer capital gains incentives on investments made in theses zones. Contact the writer: jlockwood@timesshamrock.com; 570-348-9100 x5185; @jlockwoodTT on Twitter

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