Scranton City Council on Thursday voted 4-1 to approve Mayor Bill Courtright’s proposed 2015 budget that contains a 19 percent increase in property taxes but no union concessions on salaries or pensions.

Council President Bob McGoff and Councilmen Pat Rogan, Joe Wechsler and Wayne Evans each voted yes to adopt the budget’s underlying appropriation ordinance.

In casting the lone no vote against the budget ordinance, Councilman Bill Gaughan repeated his concerns made at prior meetings that the budget raises taxes and discretionary salaries, adds new debt and creates new positions, but does not contain any savings from union concessions.

The mayor’s July recovery plan by consultant Henry Amoroso said the status quo is unsustainable and called for union concessions, but the budget does not contain the “bold and tough decisions” that are necessary for financial stability, Mr. Gaughan said.

Along with real estate tax hikes that equate to a rise of $125 a year on the median assessments for land/improvements, the budget will triple the $52 annual Local Services Tax to $156 a year on anyone who works in the city.

“It is not fair to ask the people of Scranton to once again make sacrifices and bear the burden of a tax increase along with a tripling of the LST tax when Mayor Courtright has not done the difficult things and made the necessary sacrifices he needs to make,” Mr. Gaughan said.

Mr. Rogan asked Mr. Gaughan why, if he opposes the budget, he did not offer any amendments to it. Mr. Gaughan asked Mr. Rogan why he didn’t make any amendments and then read from a 2012 Times-Tribune article quoting Mr. Rogan on various cuts he proposed at that time. Mr. Gaughan questioned why Mr. Rogan wasn’t proposing cuts to Mr. Courtright’s 2015 budget.

“Before you try to call me out for not making amendments, I was waiting for you to open your mouth,” Mr. Gaughan said. “See the reason I’m not making amendments is because the real change that needs to happen in this budget, I can’t effect. It’s union negotiations and concessions. Everything else is a drop in the bucket.”

Mr. Rogan said, “Well, Mr. Gaughan, this actually should have been an area where we could have found common ground and worked together on.”

Mr. Gaughan replied, “Well, you never reached out to me.”

Mr. Rogan said, “This is a much different approach than the prior administration,” and that he agrees with the Amoroso plan and much of the 2015 budget.

“I don’t know why Mr. Gaughan got so upset by a simple question,” Mr. Rogan said. “If you would like to work together in future on cost-saving measures, I’d be happy to.” Mr. Gaughan said he wasn’t upset; he was annoyed by Mr. Rogan.

Mr. McGoff — seated directly between them on the dais — interjected and called for order, saying the comments were getting personal and veering off the topic of the budget.

Mr. McGoff said of the budget, “It’s not perfect ... but I think this budget allows us to move into 2015 with a reasonable expectation at moving toward recovery.”

Mr. Wechsler said the budget and its taxes are difficult but necessary, and “the one thing I do feel confident with is that we are facing our problems head on and we are making progress.”

Mr. Evans said the budget meets the basic criteria of the Amoroso plan and is “an honest attempt at transparency,” but pension reforms, union concessions and monetization of the parking and sewer authorities, to name a few, are necessary.

“I never want to see a budget in the city of Scranton with a double digit tax increase again. This is where we have to draw the line for the taxpayers of Scranton,” Mr. Evans said. “Because if we have decided our only answer will be future budgets with large tax increases, then the city should move toward receivership or bankruptcy now ... I don’t want that to happen, but if we don’t do what needs to be done, then we will have no choice.”

In another matter, council voted 4-0-1, with Mr. Gaughan abstaining, to introduce an ordinance to sell for $2,500 a tax delinquent, vacant, nonbuildable property at 94 Crane St. in Minooka to Mr. Gaughan’s parents, John and Marie Gaughan of 99 Crane St. The lot is assessed at $1,800 and was appraised at a fair market value of $2,500. The tax-delinquent propety was involved in a city Treasurer’s tax sale in 2012, and its sale to the nearby Gaughan residents comes under a mechanism known as the Pittsburgh Plan for getting such lots back on the tax rolls.

In other matters council voted 5-0 on each of the following:

• To introduce a “quality of life” ticketing ordinance with fines for violations such as the following: littering, improper storage of trash and rubbish, storage of inoperable/unregistered ‘junked’ vehicles, high grass and weeds, graffiti, accumulation of snow and ice, using indoor furniture outdoors, illegal food and commercial vendors and animal/pet maintenance and waste/feces cleanup. Fines would ranges from $50 for improper storage of recyclables to $1,000 for a prohibited occupancy. The ordinance was sought by Mr. Evans after learning of such an ordinance in Hazleton that has had success in addressing blight and property-maintenance nuisance issues. In September, Mr. Evans conducted a walking tour of a street in the Hill Section to see how such an ordinance could be employed in Scranton. A quality-of-life ticketing ordinance would be enforced by the city’s Licensing, Inspections & Permits Department.

• To introduce an ordinance dedicating the greenway along Leggett’s Creek in North Scranton to be known as “Donald and Edith McLane Leggett’s Creek Greenway.”

• To introduce an ordinance amending a prior ordinance on dog licenses, to increase the dog license fee from $20 to $35, and keeping the fee at $20 for senior citizens age 65 and older.

• To introduce an ordinance amending a prior ordinance on contractor permits and fees, to increase permit fees under a new fee schedule. Council members said the increases are overdue and they believe they are not onerous and won’t be a deterrent to development.

• To introduce a resolution authorizing the city to loan $40,000 from federal block grant funding to Terra Preta LLC, a new restaurant that opened on Wyoming Avenue.

• To introduce a resolution authorizing the city to execute a mortgage subordination agreement in favor of First National Community Bank, concerning a commercial/industrial loan from the city’s Office of Economic and Community Development to Woolworth Development Company LLC. This action will allow the firm to obtain a refinancing from the bank.

• To advance on second reading an ordinance to authorize an access easement agreement between the city and Amerco Real Estate Co. for a parcel underneath the West Lackawanna Avenue Bridge that goes over the Canadian Pacific Railway line.

• To adopt an ordinance to transfer $41,500 from nondepartmental funds to pay $36,000 for road salt, $4,000 for a legal research subscription for the Law Department, and $1,500 for business administration supplies.

• To adopt an ordinance creating a special Fire Department insurance account for purchases and maintenance of equipment.

• To adopt an ordinance authorizing removal of no-parking signs at intersection of Harrison Avenue and East Gibson Street, maintaining the all-way stop signs and installing new no-parking symbol/arrow signs.

• To adopt a resolution authorizing the city to grant a special encroachment permit to Bar Pazzo Inc., to operate an outdoor restaurant at 524-526 Lackawanna Ave.

• To adopt a resolution appointing Kristin Jenkins of Capouse Avenue to the Scranton Municipal Recreation Authority, to replace Anthony Marinucci, who is resigned Tuesday. Ms. Jenkins will fill an unexpired term until June 17.

• To adopt a resolution accepting a $1,090.51 donation from Kildare’s Scranton Inc. to the city police department. This action follows and mirrors last month’s acceptance of an identical $1,090.51 donation from Kildare’s to the Fire Department. The donations are in appreciation of the departments’ services.

• To adopt a resolution establishing a sister-city relationship between Scranton and Guardia dei Lombardi in the Province of Avellino in Italy.

Contact the writer:, @jlockwoodTT on Twitter