The city of Scranton is facing a lawsuit alleging that it has been collecting taxes illegally for the past 5 years. The lawsuit cites Pennsylvania State ordinance Act 511 which places a cap on the amount of taxes that can be collecting on the local level by a municipality. The city of Scranton claims that it does not have to observe this cap because it’s home charter gives it full power to control its rates of taxation. Nevertheless, this claim does not appear to hold water since the home charter is silent on the matter of a cap and defers to state legislation on matters where the home charter is silent. Furthermore, a recent Supreme Court decision proves that the home charter defense is not likely to succeed. In the case City of Pittsburgh v. Fraternal Order of Police, Ft, Pitt Lodge, No. 1 PICS Case No. 17-0861 (Pa. May 22, 2017) it is stated :
“Municipality could not eliminate subject of collective bargaining through adoption of home rule charter provision where Act 111, which granted fire and police officials right to bargain conditions of employment and took supremacy over any municipal home rule charter. Order of the commonwealth court reversed.
The court held that home rule charters were subservient to limitations imposed by the state legislature, and could not change or modify statues of statewide applications, such as Act 111.“
If you take Act 111 and replace it with Act 511 the implications are clear! The city of Scranton has no grounds to argue that it can supersede state ordinances and continue to tax the people of Scranton into oblivion through its illegal taxation. The courts have spoken!
Act 5 11 states:
“The aggregate amount of all taxes imposed by any political subdivision under this section and in effect during any fiscal year shall not exceed an amount equal to the product obtained by multiplying the latest total market valuation of real estate in such political subdivision, as determined by the board for the assessment and revision of taxes or any similar board established by the assessment laws which determines market values of real estate within the political subdivision, by twelve mills.(Act 511)
The lawsuit, or mandamus action, would force the Mayor of the City to obey the law which under Act 511 reads:
Any one of more persons liable for the payment of taxes levied and collected under the authority of this chapter shall have the right to complain to the court of common pleas of the county in an action mandamus to compel compliance with the preceding provision of this subsection. Tax moneys levied and collected in any fiscal year in excess of the limitations imposed by this chapter shall not be expended during such a year, but shall be deposited in a separate account in the treasury of the political subdivision for expenditure in the following fiscal year.