Taxpayers in Scranton go to court to oppose tripled LST tax

Administrators asked a judge for permission once again to seek tax in 2017

SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) - Eight taxpayers in Scranton are fighting back against increased taxes.

The battle revolves around whether people who work in the city and make more than $15,600/year should pay a continued, tripled local services tax for police and fire protection.

In most communities across the commonwealth, lawmakers are only able to tax people who work there $52/year.

Because Scranton is a "distressed" city, it has the option of tripling that tax to $156/year.

Each year, city administrators have to get permission from a judge and that is what they tried to do Monday afternoon.

Scranton mayor Bill Courtright left court Monday stressing that without being able to triple the LST tax on people who work in his city, he might have to reduce services.

"It's very important for the city. If we don't get it, it puts a big hole in our budget," Mayor Courtright said.

For nearly two hours, eight residents and their lawyer argued why Scranton shouldn't be able to triple the LST Tax.

One argument is city administrators included and approved the increase in the 2017 budget before even asking permission from a judge as required.

"They're collecting these taxes at $156 and then claiming to go to court to get permission for it? It doesn't make sense!" said Gary St. Fleur, who is opposed to the triple tax.

Opponents of the tripled tax say Scranton has been collecting taxes beyond its legal limit for years. They say administrators have done little else to solve the city's financial problems.

"If you look at the recovery plan, they were supposed to do lots of things: they were supposed to get contracts under control, get pensions under control, supposed to get debt under control and all it seems they keep doing is coming back saying we need more money!" said attorney John McGovern who represents the tax opponents.

The judge did not make an immediate decision on whether Scranton can once again seek a tripled LST Tax.

Opponents say their fight is much more than paying an extra $104/year it's about making a point.

"I can't help but feel this has gone unopposed for a very long time so I feel fortunate to be able to be in a position to say something!" Nick Gettel of Scranton said. Gettel is one of the eight people fighting the tripled tax in court.

The tripled LST tax issue impacts a lot of people.

The city says there are more than 30,000 people who work in Scranton that are subject to it.

Last year, the continued tripled local services tax, which basically went unopposed, brought in nearly $5 million to city coffers.

After listening to Monday's testimony, the judge did not say exactly when he would make a decision but indicated it will come quickly.

 


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