WILKES-BARRE — The state Department of Community and Economic Development will notify city officials this week on Mayor Tony George’s request for an Act 47 declaration.
DCED spokeswoman Sarah DeSantis said the decision will be announced Friday.
DCED’s notice will come 30 days after an agency within the department recommended that Wilkes-Barre be declared financially distressed under the act.
The declaration would set in motion additional efforts, beyond those already undertaken by the city, to put it on sound financial footing. A coordinator would be appointed to draft a recovery plan that, with city council’s approval, would serve as a road map to Wilkes-Barre’s recovery.
In late June, Mayor George applied to the DCED for a distressed declaration. He cited recurring deficits and expenses exceeding revenues for three or more years, two criteria that qualify the city for the declaration.
The city faced even tougher financial challenges in the coming years as the deficits mounted, starting with $3.5 million in 2019 and growing to $6 million in 2020 and $7 million in 2021, George said at an Aug. 1 public hearing at City Hall on his request for outside help.
Council resisted some of the measures by George and Public Financial Management, the consultant hired to work with his administration in the Early Intervention Program to avoid Act 47.
“Clearly, we are not in an enviable position,” George said at the hearing.
The Governor’s Center for Local Government, authorized by Act 47 to investigate the mayor’s claims, agreed with George’s assessment. The Center’s James Rose presented the findings of the investigation at the public hearing.
“It is the center’s opinion that the city of Wilkes-Barre has exhibited conditions that make it difficult to fulfill its responsibilities and provide for the health, safety and welfare of its citizens,” Rose said.
Reach Jerry Lynott at 570-991-6120 or on Twitter @TLJerryLynott.