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            1                  SCRANTON CITY COUNCIL MEETING

 

            2                       PUBLIC HEARING

 

            3

 

            4        IN RE: FILE OF COUNCIL NO. 49, 2008 -

 

            5   APPROPRIATING FUNDS FOR THE EXPENSES OF THE CITY

 

            6   GOVERNMENT FOR THE PERIOD COMMENCING ON THE FIRST DAY

 

            7   OF JANUARY 2009 TO AND INCLUDING DECEMBER 31, 2009 BY

 

            8   THE ADOPTION OF THE GENERAL CITY OPERATING BUDGET FOR

 

            9   THE YEAR 2009.

 

           10

 

           11                       HELD:

 

           12

 

           13                 Tuesday, November 25, 2008

 

           14

 

           15                        LOCATION:

 

           16                    Council Chambers

 

           17                 Scranton City Hall

 

           18              340 North Washington Avenue

 

           19                Scranton, Pennsylvania

 

           20

 

           21

 

           22

 

           23              CATHENE S. NARDOZZI- COURT REPORTER

 

           24

 

           25


 

 

                                                                       2

 

 

            1   CITY OF SCRANTON COUNCIL:

 

            2

 

            3   MR. ROBERT MCGOFF, PRESIDENT

 

            4

 

            5   MS. JUDY GATELLI, VICE-PRESIDENT

 

            6

 

            7   MS. JANET E. EVANS (Not present)

 

            8

 

            9   MS. SHERRY FANUCCI

 

           10

 

           11   MR. WILLIAM COURTRIGHT

 

           12

 

           13   MS. KAY GARVEY, CITY CLERK

 

           14

 

           15   MR. NEIL COOLICAN, ASSISTANT CITY CLERK

 

           16

 

           17   MR. AMIL MINORA, SOLICITOR

 

           18

 

           19

 

           20

 

           21

 

           22

 

           23

 

           24

 

           25


 

 

                                                                       3

 

 

            1                      MR. MCGOFF:  I'd like to call this

 

            2              public hearing to order.  Roll call, please?

 

            3                      MR. COOLICAN:  Mrs. Evans.

 

            4                      (Mrs. Evans not present.)

 

            5                      MR. COOLICAN:  Mrs. Gatelli.

 

            6                      MS. GATELLI.  Here.

 

            7                      MR. COOLICAN:  Ms. Fanucci.

 

            8                      (Ms. Fanucci not present.)

 

            9                      MR. COOLICAN:  Mr. Courtright.

 

           10                      MR. COURTRIGHT:  Here.

 

           11                      MR. COOLICAN:  Mr. McGoff.

 

           12                      MR. MCGOFF: Notice is hereby given

 

           13              that a public hearing of Scranton City

 

           14              Council will be held on Tuesday,

 

           15              November 25, 2008 at 6:00 p.m. in council

 

           16              chambers.  The purpose of said public

 

           17              hearing is to hear testimony and discuss the

 

           18              following:  FILE OF COUNCIL NO. 49, 2008 -

 

           19              APPROPRIATING FUNDS FOR THE EXPENSES OF THE

 

           20              CITY GOVERNMENT FOR THE PERIOD COMMENCING ON

 

           21              THE FIRST DAY OF JANUARY 2009 TO AND

 

           22              INCLUDING DECEMBER 31, 2009 BY THE ADOPTION

 

           23              OF THE GENERAL CITY OPERATING BUDGET FOR THE

 

           24              YEAR 2009.

 

           25                      I would ask that before the meeting


 

 

                                                                       4

 

 

            1              that we could limit comments to three

 

            2              minutes per speaker and if time allows

 

            3              people, if there is still time that people

 

            4              may speak a second time after the listed

 

            5              speakers are finished.  First, Andy

 

            6              Sbaraglia.

 

            7                      MR. SBARAGLIA: Andy Sbaraglia,

 

            8              citizen of Scranton, fellow Scrantonian.

 

            9              This budget is 78 pages, that's a lot to cut

 

           10              down to three minutes, but I'll have to go

 

           11              page by page, which I would have gone a lot

 

           12              further, but since you limit us so we go.

 

           13              Let's go with page 12, the local service

 

           14              tax, that's the $52 one.  I assume people

 

           15              are now realizing they only make $12,000 and

 

           16              no longer have to pay this tax because it's

 

           17              decreased 22 percent.  I assume that's the

 

           18              reason for it, at least I hope that's the

 

           19              reason for it.

 

           20                      Let's continue on, page 16, Junkyard

 

           21              license we went from $6,901 to $667.00,

 

           22              minus 90 percent, does that mean that we

 

           23              have less junkyards in Scranton I assume or

 

           24              has something changed that we don't know

 

           25              about.  That's hard to say.


 

 

                                                                       5

 

 

            1                      Let's look at the pinball machine

 

            2              permits.  In 2008 we had 6,400 and some and

 

            3              as you know this is only for the nine months

 

            4              and now we have only 1,000.  That's an

 

            5              85 percent drop again.

 

            6                      Let's continue on.  Of course,

 

            7              amusement rides, I guess that would probably

 

            8              effect Nay Aug the most, but we have a

 

            9              51 percent reduction in that.

 

           10                      Page 20, they took out the actual

 

           11              recycling and put it somewhere else, I don't

 

           12              know, but it's off of that with a little

 

           13              note underneath it saying the city still

 

           14              receives Act 101 Recycling grants, since the

 

           15              grant has certain restrictions the city

 

           16              shall raise the funds out of operation's

 

           17              account into a special city account.  I

 

           18              don't know why if -- that wasn't done in

 

           19              2008, too?  I must have missed that or is

 

           20              that just done this coming year?

 

           21                      Well, let's keep going, three

 

           22              minutes you got a lot of pages to go

 

           23              through.  Twenty-four, cable TV revenue.

 

           24              They called for $780,000 in revenue when you

 

           25              I believe were given 24 percent -- a quarter


 

 

                                                                       6

 

 

            1              of that does the cable, Electric City

 

            2              Cable -- that's what I mean.

 

            3                      (During Mr. Quinn speaking Ms.

 

            4              Fanucci enters council chambers.)

 

            5                      MR. QUINN:  Ozzie Quinn, Taxpayers'

 

            6              Association.  What bothers me is the fact

 

            7              that it's been reported that this is a

 

            8              balanced budget.  Now, I don't know how it

 

            9              can be balanced when we had to borrow money

 

           10              in order to pay off that debt, you know what

 

           11              I mean?  It's like myself, if I have a

 

           12              budget and I want to rent an apartment and

 

           13              it's $500 and the budget says $400 I can't

 

           14              rent that apartment, but somebody -- if I

 

           15              borrow $100 then I can rent that apartment,

 

           16              you know?  I wouldn't call my budget

 

           17              balanced, you know?  This is just a play on

 

           18              words, there is no doubt about it.  In other

 

           19              words, we are increasing our debt and when

 

           20              you increase your debt you are not balancing

 

           21              your budget.  It's ashame, okay, that this

 

           22              man has come up with this facade that he is

 

           23              balancing the budget.

 

           24                      The other thing is in I went over to

 

           25              the County Assessor's Office and you know we


 

 

                                                                       7

 

 

            1              need revenue, there is no doubt about it,

 

            2              and taxes, our taxes are a source of

 

            3              revenue.  At least they say that now we are

 

            4              getting a windfall from the wage tax, that's

 

            5              revenue.  Property taxes, wage taxes,

 

            6              mercantile taxes, this is what the heart of

 

            7              the budget is.  Now, the fact is I went over

 

            8              to the assessor's office and I was able to

 

            9              look up these tax exempt properties and in

 

           10              the city there is 1,221 tax exempt parcels

 

           11              of land, 498 or 41 percent are owned by the

 

           12              city.  Now, you know, what are they doing

 

           13              laying out there?  That's Mr. Doherty's

 

           14              program of getting that blight, clearing

 

           15              that blight, so what does it do?  It's not

 

           16              tax producing?  The fact is it's not.

 

           17                      I counted 155 nonprofits in the

 

           18              city, you know, it's difficult to count them

 

           19              the nonprofits because sometimes the

 

           20              churches are different denominations and you

 

           21              don't know if they are the same

 

           22              denominations or not, but you know, what he

 

           23              is doing is he by saying he is a removing

 

           24              blight by taking these houses and these

 

           25              properties and whatnot, he is taking them


 

 

                                                                       8

 

 

            1              off the tax rolls and it's just adding up

 

            2              and adding up and if you take it off the tax

 

            3              rolls you are taken the revenue away and

 

            4              there only a few of us left in the city that

 

            5              are property owners are going to have to pay

 

            6              for, you know, the tax bills and it's just

 

            7              won't work, so I just hope that, you know,

 

            8              that they do something about, you know, the

 

            9              fact that they face up to the this issue and

 

           10              try to start sell some of this land.  Some

 

           11              of this land actually might be Nay Aug or

 

           12              something like that or in a flood zone, but

 

           13              a lot of it is not.  Thank you.

 

           14                      MR. MCGOFF: Mr. Spindler?

 

           15                      MR. SPINDLER:  Les Spindler, city

 

           16              resident and home owner.  Two years ago in

 

           17              the budget Mayor Doherty wanted to borrow

 

           18              $44 million.  Last year we had a 25 percent

 

           19              tax hike and borrow millions, now all of a

 

           20              sudden this year this is no tax hike, no

 

           21              borrowing, while the rest of the country is

 

           22              struggling Scranton all of a sudden is doing

 

           23              terrific, we don't have to borrow any money.

 

           24              Can you say election year?

 

           25                      And about the two raises, a raise


 

 

                                                                       9

 

 

            1              for Ray Hayes and a raise for Lisa Moran of

 

            2              $10,000, first of all, Ray Hayes shouldn't

 

            3              even have a job.  When Mayor Connors was

 

            4              mayor PEL wouldn't let him have a public

 

            5              safety director.  All of a sudden Chris

 

            6              Doherty can have a public safety director

 

            7              and he is getting a $10,000 raise?  I have

 

            8              been on my job for 16 years, in 16 years I

 

            9              haven't had $10,000 worth of raises.  This

 

           10              man is getting a $10,000 raise in one year?

 

           11                   And Lisa Moran, does she deserve a

 

           12              raise of $10,000?  I don't think so.  She

 

           13              didn't even know about index cards with

 

           14              people's social security numbers on them

 

           15              dumped outside in the alley.  She should

 

           16              have been responsible for them.  These

 

           17              people don't deserve $10,000 raises and they

 

           18              should be taken out of the budget.  That's

 

           19              all I have.  Thank you.

 

           20                      MR. MCGOFF: Ms. Schumacher?

 

           21                      MS. SCHUMACHER: The first item, I

 

           22              see Mr. Renda is in attendance and I would

 

           23              like to tell him how much I do appreciate

 

           24              the fact that he has at least made some

 

           25              variant explanations without having to go


 

 

                                                                      10

 

 

            1              through every single line item.

 

            2                      However, using the current year's

 

            3              base year may be appropriate, but calling it

 

            4              a historical trend is not appropriate.  One

 

            5              year's variance is not a historical trend.

 

            6              We need more information on what

 

            7              professional services are being procured.

 

            8                   And regarding the salary adjustments,

 

            9              the human resource increase should be

 

           10              disallowed because part of that job

 

           11              description is the recovery plan

 

           12              administration and the recovery plan has

 

           13              expired so that's a decrease in

 

           14              responsibilities and the salary should

 

           15              actually be reduced to reflect that.

 

           16                      And public safety, I say it's a

 

           17              travesty to continue giving raises to the

 

           18              administration when the people who are

 

           19              performing the services, our firefighters

 

           20              and police, have not received a cost of

 

           21              living or pay increase for seven consecutive

 

           22              years.

 

           23                      There have been operating surpluses

 

           24              growing for the past four years and the

 

           25              current year to date, 2004 was 104,253, 2005


 

 

                                                                      11

 

 

            1              was 644,631, and 2006 was $6,710,000, 2007

 

            2              was $1,446,659 and through October of this

 

            3              year revenues exceed expenses by $7,174,480.

 

            4              These surpluses are never reflected in the

 

            5              operating budget, so please tell me where

 

            6              they disappear to?

 

            7                      The tax anticipation notes are

 

            8              booked as revenue.  Since the anticipated

 

            9              taxes are also included as revenue, this

 

           10              appears to be a double booking.  Why are

 

           11              both shown as revenue?

 

           12                      Council passed a resolution to bring

 

           13              OECD back to city hall when their current

 

           14              lease expires in midyear.  Where is the

 

           15              $25,000 plus rental income from OECD that

 

           16              should be booked?

 

           17                      Why is the one time revenue of

 

           18              5.5 million from the Single Tax Office

 

           19              identified as delinquent wage tax?  The wage

 

           20              tax had to have been paid, the only

 

           21              delinquency was the Single Tax Office did

 

           22              not transfer it to the city.

 

           23                      On the expenses, is ECTV not

 

           24              receiving a percent of the cable fees in

 

           25              '09?  I can't find that reflected anyplace,


 

 

                                                                      12

 

 

            1              and the recreation.  Hopefully I will be

 

            2              back.

 

            3                      MR. MCGOFF: Mr. Jackowitz.

 

            4                      MR. JACKOWITZ:  Bill Jackowitz,

 

            5              South Scranton resident.  Good evening, city

 

            6              council.  Mr. Renda, thank you for

 

            7              attending.  The 2009 budget is the best the

 

            8              mayor has offered, but cuts do need to

 

            9              occur.  Government and private industries

 

           10              are cutting every day.  Moms and dads right

 

           11              here in the City of Scranton are cutting

 

           12              their home budgets every single day.

 

           13              Scranton cut theirs, also, but I don't think

 

           14              they cut it enough.

 

           15                      You know, we have two major pay

 

           16              raises in this budget, which has been spoken

 

           17              about, Lisa Moran's and Ray Hayes, $10,000

 

           18              raises.  As I was coming here the Scranton

 

           19              Fire Department and Police Department are

 

           20              responding to a major accident on 81 North.

 

           21              The same fire department and police

 

           22              department that has not had a raise in seven

 

           23              years.  I don't think Ray Hayes' raise and

 

           24              Lisa Moran's raise should be approved until

 

           25              the brave men and woman of the Scranton Fire


 

 

                                                                      13

 

 

            1              Department and the Scranton Police

 

            2              Department who right now as we speak are out

 

            3              on 81 North risking their life possibly

 

            4              saving someone's else's life, please do not

 

            5              allow that raise.

 

            6                      MR. MCGOFF: Anyone else?  If anyone

 

            7              would wish to speak again.

 

            8                      MR. SBARAGLIA: On 7-E, the last page

 

            9              I want to just get to that because somebody

 

           10              else may have some other things to say, is

 

           11              the debt.  Total interest and debt service

 

           12              in '09 it's going to be $22,393,017.  That

 

           13              is almost 1/3 of our budget is now put out

 

           14              in debt, which is terrible.  Somewhere along

 

           15              the line it makes know -- because he wants

 

           16              to build more.  I mean, what are we going to

 

           17              do with this debt?  It keeps piling up and

 

           18              he makes no provision in this budget or any

 

           19              budget to reduce it.  You cannot reduce debt

 

           20              by borrowing more or changing it and

 

           21              refinancing and so forth and so on.  It

 

           22              doesn't make sense.  It never will make

 

           23              sense because if nothing else you are going

 

           24              to pay interest on refinancing, you are

 

           25              going to being paying all costs upfront for


 

 

                                                                      14

 

 

            1              legal fees and whatever.  Well, I'm not

 

            2              going get too far into it other than the

 

            3              fact that almost 1/3 of this budget is being

 

            4              thrown out the window.

 

            5                      MS. SCHUMACHER: Back again.  The Rec

 

            6              Department supplies, now we find that the

 

            7              illegal sale of the Bill Schmidt Sport's

 

            8              Complex in South Scranton is the Fourth of

 

            9              July, Italian Festival and First Night

 

           10              fireworks were paid with complex rentals.

 

           11              Now that that source has dried up I question

 

           12              whether we really need fire works at these

 

           13              events.  Something nice to have, but not a

 

           14              necessary expense when we are as deep in

 

           15              debt as we are and our many unfulfilled

 

           16              promises to neighborhood parks.

 

           17                      Flood protection maintenance is more

 

           18              than doubling.  The stated explanation is a

 

           19              rise in construction costs.  These are

 

           20              capital expenses and not operating expenses.

 

           21              Why were they not in the capital budget?

 

           22                        Does the Shade Tree Commission

 

           23              remove diseased or dead trees?  If so, why

 

           24              the '09 decrease when there are so many

 

           25              trees needing removal?


 

 

                                                                      15

 

 

            1                      The Scranton Redevelopment Authority

 

            2              recently refinanced the Department of Public

 

            3              Works Complex.  How is this reflected in the

 

            4              budget?  Is that the $5,887,002 2005

 

            5              leaseback in the nondepartmental expenditure

 

            6              items?  And I guess I'll quit there.  I have

 

            7              a lot more.  Maybe I'll do more later unless

 

            8              we have time.

 

            9                      MR. QUINN:  Thank you.  There is

 

           10              only one way to slice -- to lower the budget

 

           11              and that's to slice personnel.  There is no

 

           12              doubt about it.  I gave you a budget last

 

           13              week and I bet you don't even know where it

 

           14              is.  I bet Mr. Courtright looked at it

 

           15              though, but the fact is that we are loaded

 

           16              with fat in this budget and you can really

 

           17              lower and pay off some of that debt that we

 

           18              are really in.  You know, you hate to lay

 

           19              off people, you know, nobody wants to lay

 

           20              off people, but on the other hand, you know,

 

           21              people can't afford it.  People can't afford

 

           22              to pay these high salaries and these

 

           23              benefits, so please consider laying off some

 

           24              people.

 

           25                      MR. JACKOWITZ: Bill Jackowitz.  In


 

 

                                                                      16

 

 

            1              regards to the budget, I hope Mr. Renda will

 

            2              address council or address the public before

 

            3              he leaves tonight, hopefully he answers some

 

            4              of the questions that have been raised by

 

            5              the citizens this evening and I also hope

 

            6              that city council will also address these.

 

            7                   We all know that the nation is in

 

            8              serious dire need.  The City of Scranton has

 

            9              about in serious dire need for 17 years now

 

           10              and, quite honestly, nothing has changed.

 

           11              Now is the opportunity, 2009, is an

 

           12              opportunity for us to improve things in this

 

           13              city.  It's an election year, things can

 

           14              change, people can make good decisions.  The

 

           15              first decision that needs to be made is the

 

           16              budget.  The mayor submitted his budget,

 

           17              Ozzie Quinn submitted a budget, I don't know

 

           18              if Janet Evans will be submitting a budget,

 

           19              but I believe it's the responsibility of the

 

           20              council to review all of the budgets and

 

           21              look at each and every budget, each and

 

           22              every line item and decide what is best for

 

           23              the city, what is best of the taxpayers of

 

           24              in city because we are the ones who pay the

 

           25              bills and we have paid the bills religiously


 

 

                                                                      17

 

 

            1              most of us.  The ones who haven't paid the

 

            2              bills are paying them now, that's why we

 

            3              have an increase in the wage tax, okay,

 

            4              because they got frightened by the FBI.

 

            5                      So, please, all I'm asking council

 

            6              and Mr. Renda is to look at this budget and

 

            7              make sure that it's the best budget possible

 

            8              for all, all citizens and taxpayers of

 

            9              Scranton.

 

           10                      MR. SPINDLER: Les Spindler again.

 

           11              Just one question, Mrs. Gatelli, as finance

 

           12              chair are you going to submit your own

 

           13              budget as Mrs. Evans did the last few years?

 

           14                      MS. GATELLI:  No, I will not be

 

           15              submitting my own budget.

 

           16                      MR. SPINDLER: Okay.  Thank you.

 

           17                      MS. GATELLI: I have been working

 

           18              with Mr. Renda.

 

           19                      MS. SCHUMACHER: No, wait.  I'll hold

 

           20              it for the regular meeting so not to get

 

           21              behind.

 

           22                      MR. MCGOFF: We do have time.  I

 

           23              declare this public hearing closed.

 

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            2                     C E R T I F I C A T E

 

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            4        I hereby certify that the proceedings and

 

            5   evidence are contained fully and accurately in the

 

            6   notes of testimony taken by me at the hearing of the

 

            7   above-captioned matter and that the foregoing is a true

 

            8   and correct transcript of the same to the best of my

 

            9   ability.

 

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                                    CATHENE S. NARDOZZI, RPR

           13                       OFFICIAL COURT REPORTER

 

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