SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — The city of Scranton is closer than ever to shedding a label it has carried for 29 years.
Mayor Paige Cognetti gave a state of the city address Wednesday afternoon. Cognetti says Scranton is on track to exit Act 47 at the end of this year. The city was declared financially distressed under the statute in 1992, something the mayor at the time says he never wanted in the first place.
“I think we’re really at a place in Scranton where looking forward, we have the wind at our backs, our real estate market is good, we’re building our brand as a city, we have lots of opportunities ahead of us. We need to make sure that as a city, we’re going after those opportunities and we’re looking forward with energy,” Cognetti said.
Looking to the city’s future and leaving Act 47 in the past. In her state of the city address Wednesday afternoon, Cognetti said by the end of the year, Scranton may no longer be a “city in distress”
“With the Act 47 recommendations we are actually looking at our entire tax code to figure out how to reduce taxes over time while also growing our economy and fostering an environment for businesses,” Cognetti said.
Scranton was declared financially distressed under Act 47 in 1992 while Jimmy Connors was mayor. The statute is supposed to help municipalities financially by bringing in state officials to make a recovery plan.
“There is a structure now set up where the state can provide us with emergency loans, help us to set up long term financing and borrowing programs, allow us to receive grants which we might not else qualify for,” former city councilman John Pocius said in 1992.
But Connors says he never thought it was necessary. He says he was worried about the negative stigma it would put on the city.
“That was a title that we…City Council labeled us and they shouldn’t have done it. I tried to convince them at the time not to do it,” Connors said.
29 years later, Cognetti says they’re on the right track, but there’s a lot of work ahead. She says it’s the seemingly small things like shifting the culture that make a huge difference.
“We’re looking at the budget as tax payer dollars. It’s not a blank check to go out and spend. That culture within the city of Scranton, that culture shift is really important,” Cognetti said.
Cognetti says internal and financial controls, and going after collections have helped the city get to this financial place. She says they’re working with the financial advisor and collaborating with other mayors to figure out how to tackle the long term financial hurdles such as health care and pension obligations.
Cognetti says a debt policy is coming to make sure the city continues to work on spending and the long term structural deficit is going down, not up.
In her state of the city, Cognetti also reflected on the past 14 months, commending the community for coming together during the pandemic.
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