Scranton taxpayers could get a break in 2020

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SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Scranton taxpayers paid millions of dollars more in taxes then they were legally obligated to pay over several years.

A judge has ordered the city to put that money into an escrow account. Court paperwork spells it all out that the city overcharged. Now, if city government follows the judge’s order, taxpayers can expect a break in 2020.

Scranton taxpayers paid on average $9.5 million more than required in 2015, 2016, and 2017.

“What they’ve done in the last three years is spent the money, which is problematic,” said John McGovern, Jr. who is representing seven taxpayers.

McGovern brought a lawsuit against the city in 2017, representing seven city taxpayers. Monday night, Lackawanna County Judge James Gibbons found the city collected more than the Act 5-11 cap, which is 1.2 percent of real estate value in the city or $29 million a year. Act 5-11 taxation for example, is a parking tax, amusement tax, etc. Basically a tax that is not already taxed by the state.

“We’ve proceeded for three years now and this is probably the third or fourth decision by the judge which went against the city. It was just that this was finally the big decision,” McGovern said.

The judge is ordering the city to put the money aside for years 2015 through 2019, which totals around $50 million. The city must then use that money to pay for next year’s 5-11 tax.

“I would love to get a refund check in the mail, but what might be happening is I be getting a check in one hand and returning it with another if my taxes go up,” Joan Hodowanitz of Scranton said.

City officials tell Eyewitness News they plan to appeal the order. In the past, the city has said they do not need to follow Act 5-11 because they operate in a home rule charter.

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