1 SCRANTON CITY COUNCIL MEETING
2 PUBLIC HEARING
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.
13 Tuesday, November 25, 2008
16 Council Chambers
17 Scranton City Hall
18 340 North Washington Avenue
19 Scranton, Pennsylvania
23 CATHENE S. NARDOZZI- COURT REPORTER
1 CITY OF SCRANTON COUNCIL:
3 MR. ROBERT MCGOFF, PRESIDENT
5 MS. JUDY GATELLI, VICE-PRESIDENT
7 MS. JANET E. EVANS (Not present)
9 MS. SHERRY FANUCCI
11 MR. WILLIAM COURTRIGHT
13 MS. KAY GARVEY, CITY CLERK
15 MR. NEIL COOLICAN, ASSISTANT CITY CLERK
17 MR. AMIL MINORA, SOLICITOR
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
1 and the recreation. Hopefully I will be
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
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
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?
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
25 MR. JACKOWITZ: Bill Jackowitz. In
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
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
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
22 MR. MCGOFF: We do have time. I
23 declare this public hearing closed.
2 C E R T I F I C A T E
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
CATHENE S. NARDOZZI, RPR
13 OFFICIAL COURT REPORTER