News

York mayor offers tax decrease for 2016 budget

Written by Mark Walters/York Daily Record | Nov 18, 2015 9:29 AM
York_budget_bracey_kim.jpg

Left to right: City business administrator Michael Doweary, Mayor Kim Bracey, police Chief Wes Kahley, fire Chief David Michaels and Shilvosky Buffaloe, interim director of the city's Department of Economic and Community Development, are shown during the budget presentation.(Photo: Mark Walters, York Daily Record/Sunday News)

A 1 percent tax cut is the first in York's modern history, Mayor Kim Bracey said.

(York) -- A proposed 2016 budget for York would decrease taxes and not require layoffs or furloughs, city officials said Tuesday at a news conference.

The tax decrease would be the first in the city's modern history, York Mayor Kim Bracey said.

York business administrator Michael Doweary explained the $99 million budget would contain a 1 percent decrease in real estate taxes. And sewer rates would rise by 6 percent to fund capital improvements. That's equal to an additional 50 cents per 1,000 gallons of water used by customers, Doweary said.

The 1 percent decrease would take the city's millage rate from 20.37 to 20.16 mills, Doweary said. A homeowner whose property is valued at $100,000 would pay $21 less in annual city property taxes under the proposed millage rate.

Moving forward, the goal of the budget is to reduce the real estate tax by 1 percent in 2016, 2 percent in 2017, then 4 percent and 8 percent in subsequent years, officials said, which is on pace with Bracey's tax plan.

Savings realized from 36 positions cut last year is allowing this year's tax decrease, Doweary said.

"This is ambitious, some may even say it's crazy, but I believe it is necessary," said Bracey, who called the property tax reduction a "modest down payment on our city's future."

Funding public safety

The city's emergency services wouldn't see too much change if the proposed budget passed as it is.

York City Police Department would be able to operate with 100 officers, two less than Chief Wes Kahley had requested last month. But this budget won't be laying anyone off, he said.

Several officers left amid last year's budgetary challenges, Kahley said, and the department is trying to get back to normal staffing levels. The department will have 95 tax-funded officers and five more paid for by a federal grant.

In the last five years, Kahley said his department had a full complement of 109 officers for about a week.

York City Fire/Rescue Services will operate with 56 officers, two more than the department has now. Chief David Michaels said his department will hire two firefighters through a federal grant awarded earlier this year.

The department will be able to replace the roof at its South Duke Street headquarters, but other capital improvements will be put off under this budget proposal, Michaels said.

And new trucks are not in the city's proposed budget. Michaels told city officials last month he had hoped to buy two new trucks for the department, which, coupled with additional overtime, totaled about $1 million.

Making pension payments

Reforms made last year put York in a better situation to address its pension debt, Doweary said. The city plans to pay roughly $6.5 million for its pensions in 2016. The city plans to pay the police pension just less than $3 million, almost $2.5 million to the fire pension and around $1.26 million for other city employees' pensions based on Bracey's budget proposal.

Doweary likened the city's pension debt to a credit card that will be fully funded in 20 years. By the end of 2016, he said the city will be current on all its past-due payments, but the city's pensions are still only about 62 percent funded.

'Deal with what we can'

The city's Department of Economic and Community Development would get to hire two part-time employees next year with Bracey's budget proposal, said Shilvosky Buffaloe, interim director of the department.

Buffaloe had requested the city hire a full-time staff member for his office and another for the city's Permits, Planning and Zoning department last month.

"We acknowledge the fact that we have to yield and deal with what we can effectively," Buffaloe said after Bracey's presentation.

The budget will be presented to York City Council at Tuesday night's 7 p.m. meeting at city hall. The council has until the end of the year to approve a final budget.

What the mayor said

York Mayor Kim Bracey commended the city's staff, council and her administration for the incredible job they do, during her 13-minute speech as part of her budget presentation at York City Hall on Tuesday. She touched on what the city has done during her time in office, noting this is York's fourth consecutive budget that doesn't include a tax hike.

On measures taken

"A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step and we've taken several, often arduous steps together," Bracey said. "Through outside help from our state's community and economic development department and private financial planners, we have maintained a close watch of our fiscal state and annually take actions to bring about further sustainability and predictability.

"We reduced our labor costs, we instituted a collection plan to aggressively pursue delinquent sewer and refuse customers, we refinanced debt, we increased our efforts to solicit contributions from our tax-exempt community and we instituted a fairer and equitable earned income tax. Further, we substantially reduced our workforce by 18 percent -- just since I took office -- despite the fact the work has not decreased, the pay has not equally increased, less people are doing more work to the benefit of all of our taxpayers. And despite all of these efforts, we still instituted a furlough policy, furloughing employees in city government as a means to avert a tax increase."

On instituting change

"I have consistently advocated, lobbied, yelled, kicked and screamed to raise awareness for reform efforts from our state government," she said.

On the future

"This by no means should suggest we are free from fiscal strife, but it is a recognition that we cannot continue to tax our way to prosperity," she said.


This article comes to us through a partnership between York Daily Record and WITF.

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