SCRANTON- Scranton resident Gary St. Fleur, along with four other Scranton residents, have recently filed a petition for the city of Scranton to declare bankruptcy under Article 10, Section 1003 of the Scranton Home Rule Charter. St. Fleur and his group, savescranton.com/ , are seeking to get an initiative on the ballot that would force Scranton to file for Chapter 9 Bankruptcy.
The initiative, if it passed, would have the full weight of legislation, one voted on by the public. Initiatives, unlike referendum, do not need to go through a legislative body first to be voted on by the general public and then enacted.
Some of the reasons for filing for bankruptcy, as cited by St Fleur, are the $300 million in estimated debt the city currently holds, underfunded pensions, and increased municipal fees. The city itself has been declared in a “financial distress” status by the state since 1992. In 2012, the city almost become insolvent.
The activists filed their petition with the city clerk. In order for them to get the initiative on the ballot, they must collect signatures amounting to a number that is 15% of the voters in the last mayoral election. The next step, should they get the allotted signatures, will be for the city council to vote on making the initiative a low. If they fail to make it law, the initiative then goes on the ballot.
In their press release, St. Fleur offers more reasons why the group is filing for this petition:
The ballot initiative comes at a time when the city’s coffers are consistently strapped for revenue, forcing the city to aggressively sell government property to private individuals or firms. Among the items that have been sold or leased are the Scranton Sewer Authority ($195 million), a public parking garage ($28 million), and a sparsely-occupied shopping mall ($32 million). Taxpayers have strenuously voiced their concern that the burden of the city’s fiscal instability is being placed on their own shoulders.
The city’s budget is primarily marked for government employee compensation, such as elected officials, department administrators, and first responders, as well as the city’s underfunded pensions and payments for disabled employees. Scranton has the highest rate of first responder retirees claiming disability within the Commonwealth. In the meantime, business leaders are frustrated at the amount of red tape and homeowners are faced with owning a residence that has not shifted in value for at least 30 years, or in many cases, have decreased in value. Many properties in Scranton, including its downtown core, are empty and boarded up, unable to find new tenants.
Gary St Fleur recently made news when he confronted the Scranton City Council over excess taxation:
Here is the full petition as filed by the group, savescranton.com/
PETITION FOR SCRANTON BANKRUPTCY
We, the undersigned residents of Scranton, draw the attention of the Scranton City Council to the following:
WHEREAS, the City of Scranton has been in financially distressed status since 1992 and reached near complete insolvency as recent as 2012, running reoccurring deficits evidenced by an underfunded pension, sale of public assets, increased debt (estimated at 300 million dollars), increased taxes on businesses, residents, commuters, property, in addition to increased fees on other city services; and
WHEREAS, the excessive taxation of residents, businesses, and commuters has resulted in a reduction of economic prospects for the City of Scranton as well as the destruction of equity for many local homeowners, compounding a disastrous situation that cannot be remedied through additional taxation or the sale of public assets; and
WHEREAS, this further contributes to the diminished economic and civil prospects of the City of Scranton, evidence by the sale and the leasing of public assets (parking garage, sewer authority, parking meters) which diminishes revenue sources to the government in addition to inhibiting the public’s ability to obtain government services without unreasonable cost; and
WHEREAS, we believe that a clear sign that the City of Scranton needs to go bankrupt is that the actions that would have to be taken to service its bonds, guarantees, union contracts, and pension obligations, require an excessive increase in taxes that would further cripple the already diminishing tax base (the population has declined by 50%); and
WHEREAS, the above mentions demonstrates a pressing need for the City of Scranton to go into bankruptcy since its ability to service bonds, guarantees, union contracts, and pension obligations are unthinkable in light of the amount of people in the City of Scranton living on a fixed income, a shrinking tax base, and ineluctability of bankruptcy in the future; and
WHEREAS, the City of Scranton cannot subsist without large infusions of capital from the sale of assets, borrowing, or outside sources, which cannot continue in perpetuity and only increases future debt obligations, which is to say that these conditions are the very reason for the existence of Chapter 9 Bankruptcy, as the City of Scranton has proven without a shadow of doubt an inability to service its debts and is in desperate need of having them restructured; and
WHEREAS, the City of Scranton can only see prosperity and success by lowering taxes for businesses and business owners, residents, and commuters which will attract other businesses to come and thrive in the City of Scranton, leading to a more sustained infrastructure, more economic prospects, more capital work projects, and a growing population, which can only occur through the lessening of the City of Scranton’s debt obligations through bankruptcy; and
WHEREAS, the undersigned individuals do hereby declare and present an initiative according to ordinance of the City of Scranton Home Rule Charter § 10-1003 that will create a law to enforce the will of the people that the City of Scranton files for Chapter 9 Bankruptcy.