"Off-the-books" arrangement funds Kipona

Written by Ben Allen, General Assignment Reporter | Aug 7, 2014 4:30 AM

(Harrisburg) -- Recently, Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse announced plans to shift portions of the city's arts and cultural festival Kipona to City Island.

But Papenfuse also detailed how the city pays for the festivals, and the spending has largely eluded scrutiny.

Special accounts worth about a half million dollars, outside of the city's general fund, are called a relic of former Mayor Steve Reed's administration.

As Papenfuse said: "These expenditures have never gone before City Council. It's always been kept quiet."

Papenfuse says he only discovered the arrangement when he took office.

It went like this: permit fees for using a park, or fines for a lack of smoke detectors, or any number of other revenue sources, got funneled into designated accounts with some specific purposes.

That money then was used to pay for Kipona, or park upkeep, or other costs.

"We have some background research to do, and then we have to decide which funds go into the general fund, and then which of the funds we want to create a special purpose revenue fund for," says Harrisburg Budget Director Bruce Weber.

By 2015, Weber and Papenfuse promise the setup will change.

"It could provide a small infusion of money that would be in the general fund, however, obviously, it's still available to us now as off-book revenue. So the total picture, snapshot of the city's cash position really wouldn't change that much."

Weber says the accounts give the appearance of impropriety. Moving the accounts into the budget will make spending on festivals like Kipona subject to City Council approval.

Former Mayor Reed says the money was held in trust and agency accounts that were transparent, and denies the accounts exist as the Papenfuse Administration describes.

He says its typical for such expenditures not to require City Council approval.

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