The Harrisburg School District’s receivership has been extended for three more years.
Last month, the Court of Common Pleas approved an extension of the receivership, which was slated to end on June 17.
In late May, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) filed a petition for an extension of the receivership for another three years, asking the court to reappoint Dr. Lori Suski, the current receiver of the district, to serve until June 17, 2025.
Suski was appointed as the receiver in January, following the departure of Dr. Janet Samuels who had served in the role since the beginning of the three-year receivership period in June 2019. The court originally placed the district under state control due to its failure to meet 2016 Financial Recovery Plan goals.
The PDE petition states that while “the District has made initial progress toward financial and academic recovery,” the district’s long-term recovery still needs work to improve financial health and academics. The department said that the receiver is “mid-stream” in many of her current initiatives to meet goals outlined in the district’s 2021 Amended Financial Recovery Plan.
According to the petition, the district has improved its financial status. For instance, PDE noted the proposed 2022-23 balanced budget. It also outlined the district’s development of a K-12 math and English language arts standards-aligned curriculum and the hiring of several top officials in the district, including Superintendent Eric Turman.
However, PDE has a number of items that it wants the district to address before exiting receivership. These include continuing to develop a five-year financial projection and facility utilization plan, improving student PSSA and Keystone Exam scores and making progress with graduation rates and attendance goals, among other objectives.
While under receivership, the Harrisburg school board is essentially stripped of all authority, except for the power to vote on the district’s annual taxing proposal.
ARPA Funds Deployed
Harrisburg has decided to allocate a portion of its federal COVID relief funds to its public safety departments.
At a legislative session last month, City Council approved the allotment of about $15.6 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds for public safety initiatives and reimbursement for lost revenue during the pandemic.
In total, the city was allotted $47 million in ARPA funding.
Under the bill, $5.5 million will fund the replacement of the HVAC system in the city’s Public Safety Building in downtown Harrisburg. According to Mayor Wanda Williams, the system is antiquated and in need of an upgrade.
“It’s a pricey, but necessary expenditure, as well as a health risk,” she explained at a previous council work session.
Harrisburg will also give $1.2 million in one-time bonuses to uniformed personnel in the Harrisburg Fire Bureau and Bureau of Police. Each staff member will receive a $5,000 bonus.
“The bonuses, I feel, are instrumental because we were considering those at-risk workers during the hardest times of COVID,” said council member Ralph Rodriguez. “If we don’t take care of them, we will continue to lose them.”
Another $8.8 million will be used to reimburse the city for expenses and lost revenue due to the pandemic, an amount initially approved as part of the 2022 budget.
Williams announced her proposed plan for the use of the ARPA funds in mid-May, including the items that council approved last month. Her proposal also includes uses for the remaining funds, such as for an affordable housing initiative and the replacement of the city’s Hall Manor pool with a waterpark. Those projects, among others, will require future approval by council.
“I would really like to hear the full presentation with presence from each of the directors that would be impacted by the mayor’s proposal,” said council President Danielle Bowers. “I would also like to hear from the residents.”
School Budget Includes Tax Hike
Some area property owners soon may see a tax increase, as the Harrisburg School District has proposed a 3.36% hike for the coming year.
At a board meeting last month, district officials presented the proposed $224.2 million 2022-23 budget, which includes a tax increase for the school portion of the property tax.
The district has proposed increasing the millage rate from 29.78 in 2021-22 to 30.78 in the coming fiscal year. Under the plan, taxpayers would pay $30.78 per every $1,000 in assessed property value.
However, Dr. Marcia Stokes, the district’s business administrator, explained that the 5,609 households in Harrisburg that receive the homestead exemption will actually see a decrease in their taxes. Additional property tax relief funds this year will increase the exemption, she said.
At press time, the school board had not yet approved the proposed tax hike, which would take effect in July. Taxing is virtually the only power that the board has left since the district entered into state receivership in 2019.
Overall, the district proposed a $224.2 million balanced budget that includes the use of millions of federal COVID-19 relief dollars.
According to Stokes, this year’s proposed budget is much higher than last year’s $184.8 million budget due to the influx of about $50 million in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding.
The proposed budget includes normal expenditures such as regular instruction, special instruction and staffing costs. However, it also includes special projects such as the renovation of the district’s Steele Elementary School, which the district plans to reopen, and the replacement of HVAC systems across schools. Both would utilize ESSER funds.
Additional ESSER dollars would support upgrades to district playground equipment, furniture, restrooms and fitness equipment, among other items.
Receiver Dr. Lori Suski was expected to make a decision on the adoption of the proposed budget at a late June board meeting, when the school board also was expected to vote on the tax increase.
Lofts Project Begins
In a place where folks once played basketball and held meetings, people soon will be eating, sleeping and simply relaxing.
The Lofts officially broke ground last month in the former Salvation Army building at Green and Cumberland streets in the heart of residential Midtown Harrisburg.
Harrisburg and Dauphin County officials were on hand to ceremonially inaugurate the project, which is being developed by Wormleysburg-based Integrated Development Partners (IDP).
“Today, we’re celebrating what’s to come here at the Lofts of Midtown and what will become a beautiful addition to an already beautiful neighborhood,” said Mayor Wanda Williams. “Each day, the future is getting brighter for the city of Harrisburg, and we’re looking forward to seeing what’s next.”
Since its founding in 2018, IDP has undertaken several area projects, most notably the mixed-use Steel Works revitalization project in Steelton.
The company first proposed the Lofts in December 2020 as a for-sale condominium project, but since has changed the business model to rental units, according to Managing Partner Jonathan Bowser.
IDP officially bought the 18,500-square-foot, mid-century building last year from the Salvation Army, which relocated in late 2019 to a much larger facility on S. 29th Street.
The Lofts project includes 16 one- and two-bedroom units, plus 32 parking spaces located in a surface lot across the street.
Bowser said that his company called the project “The Lofts” because several units are being built in the former, multi-story Salvation Army gymnasium.
“Those will be two-story lofts, so we’re very, very excited about that,” he said.
Rents will range from about $850 a month to $1,500 a month based upon numbers of bedrooms and the sizes of units, with several apartments meeting the city’s affordable housing guidelines, Bowser said. Units will range in size from about 700 square feet to 1,200 square feet.
Firehouse Weighed for Homeless Center
Harrisburg and Dauphin County may repurpose a prominent, long-vacant building to serve as a facility for the city’s unhoused.
The Paxton firehouse, located in Shipoke, has sat empty for years, but is now being weighed as a potential service center to support residents experiencing homelessness.
According to Randie Yeager, Dauphin County human services director, the proposal came after the county noticed an increased need for shower facilities for the unhoused population. Several area organizations that have provided those services have reduced capacity, reached maximum capacity or closed, she said.
The county, along with the city and local organizations that serve the unhoused, are working together to address this issue, she said.
Their current proposal, dubbed “Showers on Second,” would use the 85-year-old firehouse as a place for people in need to possibly access showers, among other services, according to a written proposal sent to Shipoke residents by the county.
County, Harrisburg Fire Bureau and Capital Area Coalition on Homelessness representatives held a closed meeting with Shipoke residents last month to discuss the proposal.
The Paxton Fire Co. firehouse, formerly known as Station 6, closed in 2014 due to a need for significant repairs and its location in a flood zone.
Yeager said that the county is still considering other locations for a service center and that no decision had yet been made on the firehouse. If the county moves forward with the proposal, it would seek a local organization to run operations at the facility, Yeager added.
Other possible services offered at the center could include providing locker space, snacks and visits by Dauphin County Human Services staff.
According to the proposal document, the Paxton firehouse location could serve around 15 to 30 people daily and is in close proximity to south Harrisburg and downtown encampments of unhoused residents.
While the initiative is still in draft form, Yeager said that she hopes soon to see action to fill the gap in services.
Lighting for New Market Sign
The Broad Street Market’s sign is shining again, after a project to refurbish it was recently completed.
Last month, the market held a re-lighting ceremony, featuring live music, vendors and food as part of 3rd in the Burg.
The sign was repaired and reinstalled in April after suffering damage due to a windstorm. In May 2021, the market launched a campaign and raised $43,000 from community and private donors for the refurbishment.
“On behalf of the board and the market’s 40 vendors, we are grateful to those who supported our efforts to reconstruct our iconic sign in order to continue to be a bright light for our communities in the heart of Midtown,” said market board Chair John J. “Ski” Sygielski.
Sygielski, Harrisburg Mayor Wanda Williams and Matt Krupp of Lighten Up Harrisburg, a major donor to the project, attended the ceremony.
The sign, constructed by RPM Signs and Lighting, has new, energy-efficient lighting, a sturdier structure and a new design featuring silhouettes of the market’s two buildings.
“Given that much of Harrisburg exists in a food desert, with little access to local affordable and nutritious food, the historic Broad Street Market plays an important role as the centerpiece in Midtown Harrisburg’s revitalization,” Krupp said. “We are very honored to be a part of this historic restoration and humbled to have been in a position to help.”
Home Sales Slip, Prices Up
Harrisburg-area home sales dipped, but prices rose sharply in May, according to the most recent report on previously owned houses.
For the three-county region, sales fell to 670 homes in May versus 730 in May 2021, but the median sales price of a house increased to $260,000 from $240,000, according to data from the Greater Harrisburg Association of Realtors (GHAR).
In Dauphin County, sales totaled 320 homes in May, a decrease of 27 units from the year-ago period, while the median price rose to $235,000 from $210,000, GHAR said.
Cumberland County had 322 home sales in May versus 335 a year ago, as the median price jumped to $291,000 from $265,000. In Perry County, 26 houses sold, a drop of seven units, as the median price rose to $243,000 versus $217,000 in May 2021, according to GHAR.
Houses sold relatively quickly in May, as “average days on the market” dropped to 16 days compared to 20 days the prior May, according to GHAR.
Andrew Gackenbach was named chief production officer last month for Goodwill Keystone Area. In this position, he will drive Goodwill’s retail and donated goods production operations, including overseeing 47 retail stores and donation centers across 22 PA counties, their e-commerce site and warehouse logistics, according to the organization.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Capital Region last month announced receipt of its largest donation ever, $1.1 million from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott. The donation was a portion of a national gift totaling $122.6 million from Scott to the parent organization, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.
Boho Hoarder last month opened shop in Lower Paxton Township, selling second-hand and vintage finds. Owner Rebecca Babish offers a wide variety of clothing, home décor, accessories, glassware and other items from the second-floor shop at 5800 Jonestown Rd.
C. Kim Bracey last month was named the new CEO of YWCA York. Bracey served as York’s mayor for eight years and most recently served as executive director for the Governor’s Center for Local Government Services in the PA Department of Community & Economic Development.
Dauphin County Library System last month debuted its new Print Shop in first-floor space of Penn National Insurance building on N. 2nd Street in Harrisburg. The shop, formerly located in the McCormick Riverfront Library, features a new digital press, and offers affordable print and copy services to local nonprofits.
Harrisburg School District last month broke ground on a project to replace the turf field and the track at Harrisburg High School-John Harris Campus’s Severance Field. The project also will add lighting to the stadium, as well as new field goal posts and soccer goals.
Joe Massaro has been named the new president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association. Massaro, the long-time general manager of the Hilton Harrisburg, as well as the regional director of operations for Greenwood Hospitality, replaces John Longstreet, who will retire on July 31.
Phil Guarneschelli, president of UPMC in Central Pa., last month announced his retirement following 36-plus years with UPMC and its predecessor, PinnacleHealth. Lou Baverso, currently chief operating officer for the regional healthcare provider, will succeed Guarneschelli as president.
The Tour de Belt broke both ridership and fundraising records last month during the annual, 20-mile bike ride around the Capital Area Greenbelt. Nearly 1,200 riders raised $59,425, money that will go to Greenbelt improvements, according to organizer Capital Area Greenbelt Association.
Allison St., 1504: G. Boylan to T. Hardison, $50,000
Bailey St., 1196: D. Boyle to G. Ojeda & M. Rivas, $45,000
Bailey St., 1216: Straw Family Trust to D. Boyle, $40,000
Benton St., 704: T. Nguyen to PA Deals LLC, $55,000
Berryhill St., 1317: Integrity First Home Buyers LLC to Appel Investment Group MD LLC, $134,995
Berryhill St., 1403: Integrity First Home Buyers LLC to A. Johnson, $134,995
Berryhill St., 1425: D. Boyle to R. Rosso, $49,000
Berryhill St., 1609: Integrity First Home Buyers LLC to C. Wheeler, $139,995
Boas St., 402: J. Musselman to McCarty Business LLC, $155,000
Boas St., 1819: D. Keech to Premier Abundance LLC, $65,000
Boas St., 1821: Arinati Capital LLC to 2020 Real Estate Ventures LLC, $50,000
Briggs St., 2018: Cohen Altman Properties LLC to Biyaki Enterprises LLC, $55,000
Camp St., 563: R. Rammouni to Elite Property Rentals LLC, $73,500
Chestnut St., 1629: Bachaouch Properties LLC to R. Nunez, $100,594
Cumberland St., 1328 & 1330: D. & K. Hopkins to S. Welch, $185,000
Derry St., 1210: R. Rammouni to Hillside Financial LLC, $60,000
Emerald St., 631: G. Santiago to Elgamwo LLC, $45,000
Evergreen St., 121: D&F Realty Holdings LP to 101 S. 17th Street LLC, $250,100
Green St., 904: K. & E. Richards to A&W Homes LLC, $220,000
Green St., 1504: J. Webb to Berlin Group LLC, $205,000
Green St., 1529 & 1531: M. Goldberg to Alliance Estates LLC, $470,000
Green St., 1802: A. Simpson to T. Ireland & R. Uniatowski, $257,500
Green St., 1932: L. Mayton & A. Quick to M. & T. Kochera, $273,451
Green St., 2137: T. Sangrey to CWJK Holdings LLC, $145,500
Greenwood St., 2130: C. Traini to C. Fuentes, $45,000
Harris St., 205: J. Heinly to K. & G. Lyon, $258,500
Harris St., 441: Legacy Auto Exchange LLC to B. Robinson, $215,000
Herr St., 215: Z. & W. Zogby to G. & K. Ibberson, $205,000
Herr St., 1738: Strong Force Enterprises LLC to S. Jules & Q. Barkley, $179,000
Hoerner St., 133: L. Yoder to N. Tull, $85,000
Jefferson St., 2355: Da Xing Cheng Inc. to W. Himmelreich, $61,500
Kelker St., 209: Alkaline Properties LLC to D. Pittman, $200,000
Kensington St., 1946: E. & T. Reyes to F. Ortiz, $67,000
Kensington St., 2327: G. Donato to PA Deals LLC, $45,000
Kensington St., 2349: L. Davidson to Q. Huynh, $120,000
Lewis St., 305: J. Novinger to K. Pianka & S. Adams, $176,000
Locust St., 103, 105, 107 & 109 and 120 River St.: Bowser Properties LLC to Fratelli Property Investments LLC, $1,500,000
Logan St., 2244: Capital Real Estate Group LLC to D. Boyle, $40,000
Maclay St., 239: Awesome Tenants LLC to B. Vincent, $110,000
Market St., 1419: M. Araujo to J. Irizarry, $135,000
Market St., 1458: Gaines Real Estate Solutions LLC to A. Fox, $125,000
Melrose St., 716: J. Overton to Rivas Property Investments LLC, $41,984
Mulberry St., 1230: R. Wright to W. Suarez, $250,000
North St., 2008: D. Madden to K. Fort, $89,900
N. 2nd St., 813: Slater Holdings LLC to J. Rotz, $330,000
N. 2nd St., 1106: J. Baer to S. & J. Toole, $188,000
N. 2nd St., 1221: B. & L. Bauman to Ogden Homes LLC, $150,000
N. 2nd St., 1935: D&F Realty Holdings LP to 101 S. 17th Street LLC, $174,900
N. 2nd St., 2219: J. & W. Macavoy to K. Kelley & B. Kerstetter, $220,000
N. 2nd St., 2619: R. & J. Shovlin to E. Orazi, $310,000
N. 2nd St., 2738: J. Houck to Jani Family Trust, $300,000
N. 2nd St., 2915: L. Whitcomb & M. Quinn to R. & J. Shovlin, $450,000
N. 3rd St., 1203: T. Roddy to S. Bruder, $226,000
N. 4th St., 2404: D. Boyle to A&K Investment Partnership LLC, $52,500
N. 4th St., 2717: L. & Y. Kazhdan to T. Wilcox & J. Clark, $190,000
N. 5th St., 1718: Jones Logistics Unlimited LLC to First Daughters LLC, $46,000
N. 6th St., 1414: S. Deasy to B. & L. Comeau, $200,000
N. 6th St., 3148: T. Malehorn to E. Einav, $141,000
N. 18th St., 17: Arinati Capital LLC to 2020 Real Estate Ventures LLC, $50,000
N. Front St., 323: J. Enos to L. Poole & A. Johnson, $648,000
Oxford St., 611: Neidlinger Enterprises LLC to M. Estrada, $145,000
Park St., 1917: Dees Properties to J. Lopez, $73,000
Park St., 1937: MFRA Trust 2016-1 to Adonis Real Estate LLC, $54,900
Paxton St., 1001: I Mart LLC to DAP on Paxton LP, $900,000
Peffer St., 215: C. Beck to K. Peacock, $185,000
Peffer St., 234: J. Priest to R. Hansman, $262,000
Peffer St., 323: Global Reach LLC to Tony’s Café Keystone LLC, $125,000
Penn St., 1322: S. Galbraith to E. O’Brien, $167,500
Penn St., 1420: Hobbeze Inc. to PA Deals LLC, $65,000
Penn St., 1806: Tang & Perkins Property Management LLC to J. Forbes, $165,000
Penn St., 2112: B. Calaman to O Bear Properties LLC, $60,000
Penn St., 2431: T. Weidman & D. Powell to 2431 HBG LLC, $45,000
Pine St., 223: Muslalir Trust to 223 Pine LLC, $790,000
Race St., 554: T. Corl to RG Harrison LLC, $172,000
Reel St., 2739: D. Boyle to J. Juca & N. Masabanda, $45,000
Regina St., 1834: MCLP Asset Company Inc. to M. Santiago, $45,000
Regina St., 1849: Integrity First Home Buyers LLC to J. Schwab, $129,995
Rolleston St., 1143: A&K Investments Partnership LLC to P. Zorrilla, $151,000
Rolleston St., 1218: LVS Titel Trust XIII to Operation Elevation Limited Liability Company, $53,500
Rudy Rd., 1833: Wisechoice USA LLC to CBMB Global Real Estate LLC, $65,000
Rumson Dr., 2786: B. & C. George to E. Drum, $110,000
Seneca St., 239: J. Payne to K. Rutherford, $228,000
S. 13th St., 223: Fair Shake Real Estate LLC to ZNZ Penn Group LLC, $59,000
S. 16th St., 17: W. Cherelus to M. Montes, $89,000
S. 17th St., 20: F. Wofford to 2020 Real Estate Ventures LLC, $65,000
S. 18th St., 1309: L. & C. Thi to A. Bouhach, $100,000
S. 23rd St., 605: Henry & Sons Property 2 LLC to Pledgestone Partners LLC, $69,000
S. 28th St., 726: L. & S. Cassel to P. Garcia, $180,000
S. Cameron St., 1303, 1305, 1307 & 1309: Panas Investments LLC to A. Afolabi, $115,000
Spencer St., 1853: G. Boylan to T. Hardison, $45,000
State St., 1402: E. Zeigler to I. Barreiro & M. Reyes, $156,000
Susquehanna St., 2128: Zion Management LLC to SPG Capital LLC, $62,500
Swatara St., 1254: C. Patel to A. Ortiz, $40,000
Sylvan Terr., 126: D. Boyle to M. Castro, $50,000
Vine St., 119: Wild Patch LLC to D. Beebe, $130,000
Walnut St., 1404: 2013 M&M Real Estate Fund LLC to S. Morrison, $102,000
Whitehall St., 2054: R. Welborn to A. Tatum, $108,000
Wiconisco St., 553: S. Sary to N. McKnight, $71,250
Zarker St. 2037: C. Geary to L. & E. Allen, $117,000
Harrisburg property sales, May 2022, greater than $40,000. Source: Dauphin County. Data is assumed to be accurate.
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