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    Entries in Scranton (2)

    Tuesday
    May302017

    In Scranton, Pa., Fiscal Progress Comes With Political Costs

    The city is on the brink of making a speedy turnaround. Many worry that the tough financial decisions it took to get there could reverse some of its political progress.
    BY  MAY 30, 2017
    Bill Courtright, the mayor of Scranton, Pa. (Photos by David Kidd)
     

    After a quarter-century of being branded by the state as "fiscally distressed," Scranton, Pa., is the closest it's ever been to shedding that label. If its finances remain stable, the city is expected to exit the state’s Act 47 distressed cities program -- which it entered in 1992 -- in the next three years.

    What makes the news remarkable is the tailspin that Scranton was in just a few short years ago. When Mayor Bill Courtright took office in 2014, he inherited a city that had balanced its budget for five straight years using onetime revenues and deficit financings. “In early 2014, everyone wrote us off,” says Courtright. “It was like we had a disease.”

    But thanks to what observers are calling a new era of political cooperation between the mayor and council, Scranton has made considerable progress. City officials have approved several tax increases aimed at balancing the budget, including a hike in property taxes and garbage fees. Those, combined with a new commuter tax, have injected $16.2 million in new annual revenue into the $90 million general fund.

    Courtright credits a team that stubbornly adhered to a financial recovery plan devised with the help of a financial consultant. The mayor, also a former councilmember, says he and the current council have communicated better and worked to move beyond the infighting that dominated public meetings in previous years. “We knew we had to change the image between past mayor and past council,” he says. “We knew we wouldn’t get the financial community to go along with us if we couldn’t cooperate amongst ourselves.”

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    Tuesday
    Nov012016

    The Week in Public Finance: Petitioning for Bankruptcy, Lost Airbnb Revenue and Downgrading New Mexico

    BY  OCTOBER 28, 2016

    'Put Bankruptcy on the Ballot!'

    Activists in financially beleaguered Scranton, Pa., are petitioning for a ballot initiativethat would let residents decide if the city should file for bankruptcy. It’s a first-of-its-kind petition and reflects the ongoing frustrations of a city that's been "fiscally distressed" for two decades.

    Scranton is one of Pennsylvania’s Act 47 cities, which designates it as fiscally distressed and opens it up to aid and other resources from the state. The designation also means that the city must comply with certain fiscal requirements, such as developing a recovery plan.

    But Act 47 has had its problems, the biggest being that it doesn’t seem to provide enough oversight.

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