A Scranton, Pa., taxpayer group is continuing its legal challenge to the distressed city’s tripling of the local services tax.

Judge James Gibbons in the Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas is scheduled on May 30 to hear arguments on the city’s preliminary objections to a lawsuit by the so-called Group of Eight, led by mayoral candidate Gary St. Fleur.

The group in February had objected to the city’s annual petition to the court to raise the tax. Visiting Judge John Braxton, however, ruled in favor of the city, prompting the taxpayer group to initiate its own lawsuit.

“The trial would have statewide precedent-setting implications depending on the verdict,” said St. Fleur.

The lawsuit contends that Scranton has been collecting taxes in excess of the legal limit and calls for the issuance of a mandamus against the city. City attorneys, meanwhile, say Scranton has a home-rule charter and is thus not subject to the cap stipulated in [Pennsylvania] Act 511.

“Act 511 cannot be interpreted to limit the city’s rates of taxation,” Scranton law firm Abrahamsen, Conaboy & Abrahamsen PC said on behalf of the city in a court filing.

Scranton increased the levy from $52 to $156 for every person working within city limits that earns at least $15,600, calling the move essential for its recovery and legal under the state-sponsored Act 47 workout program for distressed communities.

The tax applies equally to residents and non-residents.

Scranton, the 76,000-population seat of Lackawanna County, has participated in the Act 47 program since 1992.

St. Fleur has said that lowering taxes across the board is the only way for Scranton to revive economically. He has also initiated a ballot measure to force the city into bankruptcy.

The taxpayer group -- all residents and subject to the local tax -- consists of St. Fleur, Nicholas Gettel, Casey Durkin, Damian Biancerelli, Rich Johnson, Ethan Green, Angela Gilgallon and Michele McGovern.

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Paul Burton

Paul Burton

Paul Burton is the Northeast Regional Editor for The Bond Buyer and the author of the book "Tales from the Newsrooms." He is a sought-after public speaker and has appeared on radio and TV shows, including former CBS News White House correspondent Sharyl Attkisson’s public-affairs program, “Full Measure.”