Touting healthy cash reserves and rising revenue, Harrisburg’s mayor this evening made his annual budget presentation to City Council, calling for the creation of new salaried positions and millions of dollars in capital investments for 2018.
The budget that Mayor Eric Papenfuse proposed would not raise city tax rates. Instead, it leverages higher revenue from a growing tax base to increase the city’s operating budget from $61 million this year to $65 million in 2018.
Papenfuse said his plan would allow Harrisburg to pay down debt while hiring more city workers and investing in capital improvements. He added that the city’s growing tax revenue this year, which is $2 million more than what was projected in the 2017 budget, shows rising employment, more valuable property stock and increasing incomes.
“The city is showing improving fiscal health, and we’re in a better position than we were a few years ago,” he said.
Papenfuse said that the city expects to balance its budget this year for the fourth consecutive year. It’s on track to meet or exceed all of its revenue projections for 2017, with property, earned income tax and local services tax revenues all greater than expected. The exception is parking and lease revenues as both categories fell roughly $200,000 short of their $1.8 million and $1.2 million projections, respectively.
Expenditures in 2018 would increase in two main categories: personnel and capital projects.
On the personnel front, the city would budget for $32.5 million in salaries compared to $31 million in 2017. That figure, which excludes healthcare costs, would create seven new management positions and two new sanitation positions. The budget would permit the Fire Bureau to make five hires and the Police Bureau to recruit 20 new officers.
The additional personnel funds would also increase salaries for two positions in the law bureau and award raises to sanitation workers represented by the AFSCME union.
Papenfuse also wants the city to spend some of the $20 million in cash that has built up in its general fund. He proposes withdrawing $2 million to make an early debt payment and $6.5 million to spend on capital projects.
The city defines a capital project as any expenditure exceeding $5,000. In 2018, proposed capital projects include $1 million on new radios and patrol cars for police, $700,000 for work on the 15th street police substation and $80,000 for police body cameras. About $450,000 would go towards renovating city playgrounds, and projects to renovate Reservoir Park would receive $285,000 in funding.
The Public Works Department would have a $1.5 million capital project budget, which would fund ADA ramp renovations and allow the city to match grant money for paving projects.
The $6.5 million budget for capital improvements would bring the city’s total general fund for 2018 to $72 million.
Tonight’s presentation was the first step in a weeks-long budgeting process. Council members will have until Dec. 5 to review the mayor’s presentation and submit questions to the city clerk. Public budget hearings will be held on Dec. 12 and 13, and council is expected to approve a budget by Dec. 19.
Council President Wanda Williams and finance committee chair Ben Allatt declined to comment on the presentation on Tuesday night, saying they needed time to review the budget and prepare questions.