Harrisburg to Leave Act 47
A bill passed by the state legislature last month allows Harrisburg to preserve its current tax rates and exit Act 47, a state oversight program for financially distressed municipalities.
The House and Senate both voted overwhelmingly to pass House Bill 2557, which allows Harrisburg to maintain its current local services tax (LST) and earned income tax (EIT) for five years after it exits state oversight. The bill also prohibits the city from enacting a commuter tax and convenes a five-member Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority (ICA) to monitor Harrisburg’s finances.
After the vote took place, Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse thanked the lawmakers who supported its passage, including its sponsor, Rep. Greg Rothman, R-Cumberland County, and Harrisburg’s lawmakers in the House and Senate, Rep. Patty Kim and Sen. John DiSanto.
“While I wish we had been able to achieve a permanent solution for the city and the region, Harrisburg’s immediate fiscal crisis has lifted,” Papenfuse said. “I look forward to working with the new members of the Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority—as it’s time to roll up our sleeves and continue to work for the long-term success of Harrisburg and the capital region.”
The bill is the culmination of a 10-month lobbying effort by Harrisburg officials, who have long said the city needs stronger taxing powers to support the capital city. It will allow Harrisburg to preserve about $12 million in annual revenue that would have been lost in a traditional Act 47 exit.
Act 47 allows Harrisburg to levy a 2 percent EIT on all residents and a $156 LST, even though state law caps EIT rates at 1 percent and LST at $56 per year. Without HB 2557, Harrisburg would have been forced to cut its EIT in half and slash its LST by two-thirds when it exits state oversight.
Local officials say those rates are untenable in Harrisburg, which supports large swaths of tax-exempt properties and a daily population of some 50,000 commuters. Mayor Eric Papenfuse had told lawmakers that the city’s emergency services and infrastructure would be in jeopardy if the city had to cut its taxes.
With HB 2557 in place, Harrisburg will also be spared high property tax increases that were prescribed in a proposed three-year Act 47 exit plan.
The city did make one significant sacrifice in the final bill, which was amended in October to put a five-year time limit on the enhanced taxing power.
The original legislation only required Harrisburg to retire its tax rates once its surpluses partially funded a post-retirement benefit fund for its employees. Projections estimated that could take up to 20 years.
Rep. Kim called it “the best we can do” in a Republican-controlled legislature. She hopes that the five-year timeframe will still give Harrisburg enough time to increase its tax base.
Bowers Named to City Council
Danielle Bowers, a lifelong Harrisburg resident and state government staffer, is the newest member of Harrisburg City Council.
Last month, Bowers beat out 14 other candidates, including one past council president, to take the seat formerly held by council member Cornelius Johnson.
Bowers works as an executive director for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives Tourism and Recreational Development Committee. She previously held researcher roles with the Democratic Policy Office and Legislative Black Caucus and holds a master’s degree in public administration from Pennsylvania State University.
Her appointment to council creates a vacancy on the Zoning Hearing Board, where she has served for the past three years.
Fifteen candidates appeared before council last month to share their qualifications and ask for a chance to serve on the city’s legislative branch. But only four were invited to participate in the interview phase, where sitting council members asked candidates about their skills and goals for public service.
During her interview, Bowers touted her legislative experience and her knowledge of the city’s finances. She said she would like to pass legislation to bolster public safety and hopes to see the city’s Police Bureau return to its full complement.
Candidates Josiah Yonker, an IT professional, Gloria Martin-Roberts, a former council president and mayoral candidate, and Airis Smallwood, a healthcare administrator and musician, also received nominations and sat for interviews.
City Releases Housing Study
The results of Harrisburg’s first citywide housing study are in, and they predict a shortfall of more than 200 rental units at all price points over the next three years.
Representatives from the consulting firm that prepared the study presented their main findings to City Council last month. The authors said demand for rental housing in Harrisburg will outpace supply through 2020, even as development projects put new units on the market.
As a result, Harrisburg will face a shortage of about 244 rental units across the city—a figure that accounts for the city’s existing housing stock, new units coming onto the market and old units becoming uninhabitable.
The study also considers population projections, which anticipate that Harrisburg will gain 300 households in the next three years, mostly in the Allison Hill and Uptown neighborhoods.
The study didn’t offer any policy recommendations, but city hall officials intend to use its findings to develop long-term development strategies and housing policy proposals.
3rd Street Study Released
Harrisburg’s 3rd Street corridor is headed in a positive direction, though it remains a work in progress in terms of redevelopment, economic activity and walkability.
That’s the general conclusion of a study by the Washington, D.C.-based Urban Land Institute (ULI), a nonprofit research and educational organization that recently examined the corridor from Reily Street in Midtown to Chestnut Street downtown.
“The 3rd Street corridor possesses a great deal of momentum and potential for continued development,” stated the report, titled “TLC for Harrisburg’s Third Street Corridor.” “Strategically bridging the gap between the downtown and Midtown neighborhoods can put Harrisburg on the map as a vibrant capital city with a strong urban core.”
ULI visited Harrisburg for two days in April, walking the two-mile stretch then interviewing stakeholders who live, work and own businesses there. Their analysis and report were sponsored by Harristown Development, which owns Strawberry Square.
The 14-page report lauds the recent redevelopment and adaptive reuse that has occurred along the stretch. However, it states that much work still needs to be done so that the corridor can achieve a fuller potential. It cites three specific challenges:
- “Dead Zones”: Many buildings have been restored, but many have not. There is still too much blight and too many empty storefronts.
- Forster Street: Forster Street is too wide, busy and inhospitable, cutting off downtown from Midtown and deterring pedestrian activity.
- Aesthetics: Aesthetics are inconsistent. Some areas appear pleasant, while others do not, both in terms of streetscape and the condition of structures.
The study then offers a variety of recommendations, such as incentivizing homeownership, encouraging pop-ups in empty storefronts, increasing police visibility, enforcing maintenance codes, improving the streetscape and better connecting downtown and Midtown.
Two suggestions stood out as especially ambitious.
The first recommended improving the intersection of N. 3rd and Forster streets by employing traffic-calming measures, making it more pedestrian-friendly and possibly reducing the number of lanes. The second proposed forming a “Third Street Coalition,” which would help promote, brand and advocate for the corridor.
Environmental Council Reconstituted
After more than two years of dormancy, Harrisburg’s Environmental Advocacy Council is back in action.
City Council repopulated the all-volunteer body recently when it voted unanimously to approve five appointees nominated by council members and the city administration. One appointee, Rafiyqa Muhammad, is a holdover from the former EAC that dissolved in 2016.
She’s joined by new members Tanya Dierolf, Christine Proctor, Molly Cheatum and Melanie Cook.
The five-member body will advise the mayor and other city officials on matters related to the environment and sustainability. As an advisory group, it does not have the power to manage or disburse money, but it will make recommendations on how to spend the money collected by Harrisburg’s “host fee.”
Harrisburg collects more than $250,000 a year in fees for hosting a regional incinerator, which is owned by the Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority (LCSWMA). State law allows cities with regional waste sites to assess a $1 per ton fee on the waste processed there. That money must be used to make environmental improvements in the city.
Christopher Nafe, the city’s new sustainability coordinator, will manage the EAC and attend all of its meetings, Mayor Eric Papenfuse said.
Papenfuse hopes that having a designated city hall staff member will help the EAC avoid the dysfunction that felled it in 2016, when most of its five members resigned.
Nafe hopes that the new EAC will advise the city on existing and new initiatives. Those include working with the Tree Advisory Council, which monitors the city’s tree population, and developing educational programs at the city’s new composting facility in Susquehanna Township.
New CRO for Harrisburg Schools
A retired Philadelphia-area superintendent will serve as the new state oversight officer for the Harrisburg School District.
The Pennsylvania Department of Education appointed Dr. Janet Samuels as the district’s new chief recovery officer in October.
She will oversee the implementation of a new, long-term recovery plan aimed at raising the district’s academic performance and financial health.
PDE put the school district under a financial recovery designation in 2012. State law requires every district in recovery to have a state-appointed recovery officer.
Samuels replaces Audrey Utley, who retired in June after serving as Harrisburg’s CRO for three years.
Her salary is capped at $144,000 annually and will be paid by PDE.
Last June, Samuels retired as the superintendent of Norristown Area School District, where she oversaw a $150 million annual budget and nine schools enrolling 7,400 students. She previously served as a regional superintendent for the Philadelphia Area School District. Her career in public education spans 35 years and includes experience as a principal and classroom teacher.
Donald E. Schell has been named the new chair of the Homeland Center’s board of trustees. Schell, who has served on the board since 2001, takes over from Morton Spector, who will continue to serve on the board as immediate past chair.
Jeanne Troy is the new development director for Tri County Community Action, it was announced last month. In the newly created position, Troy is responsible for advancing the mission of TCCA by developing donor strategies and increasing fundraising opportunities.
Justin Roth has been named marketing manager for Capital City Mall, leading the marketing efforts for the Camp Hill shopping center. He previously served as the marketing and communications manager for the Harrisburg Regional Chamber & CREDC.
Minuteman Press is relocating to larger space next door to its current location on the first block of S. 3rd Street in Harrisburg. Franchise owner Charlotte Todd recently purchased the Original Copy Shop, which had operated for 32 years, and converted it to a Minuteman shop.
Robert W. Morris & Co. last month celebrated the grand opening of its new office at 510 N. Front St., Wormleysburg. This is the second location for the CPA firm, which also has offices in New Bloomfield, Pa.
Three Little Birds Boutique opened a second location last month at the new Hershey Towne Square. The shop, which specializes in women’s clothing, shoes and accessories, joins businesses like Iron Hill Brewpub, Starbucks and several other restaurants and shops at the mixed-use retail and office project in downtown Hershey.
Bigelow Dr., 22: E. Johnson to T. Henry, $55,000
Briggs St., 214: X. Chen to Around the Corner LLC, $135,000
Capital St., 909: M. Dietz to J. Canamucio & J. Block, $130,000
Chestnut St., 1836: G. Norman to A. Nebbou, $30,000
Crescent St., 219: Anpat LLC to J. Le, $47,000
Croyden Rd., 2926: S. McDougal to A. Guerrero, $74,900
Cumberland St., 260: J. Bane to M. Mueller, $122,250
Delaware St., 266: WCI Partners to D. Taylor, $124,900
Fillmore St., 622: J. Hoch to KAB Rental Properties LLC, $40,000
Fulton St., 1729: J. Tanjung & W. Leyu to M. Gleason, $112,500
Grand St., 924: L. Searles to N. McClure, $79,900
Green St., 1818: J. Lightner to Fratelli Property Investments LLC, $110,000
Greenwood St., 2151: Alliance of Automotive Service Providers of PA Inc. to Edwin L. Heim Co., $320,000
Holly St., 1811: Wells Fargo Bank NA to R. Murphy, $32,500
Holly St., 2009: PA Deals LLC to E. Shelly, $65,900
Hunter St., 1535: P. & F. Kehler to S. Costa, $35,000
Kelker St., 231: Cartus Financial Corp. to E. Bliman & H. Hamilton, $180,000
Kelker St., 332 & 1821 N. 3rd St.: Harrisburg Redevelopment Authority to Pennsylvania National Fire Museum, $125,000
Kensington St., 2302: X. Weng & C. Yang to Fowler Investments LLC, $39,500
Kensington St., 2348: M. Hardison to N. Terry, $66,000
Kent Lane, 198: Neidlinger Enterprises to F. Manzanillo & S. Rodriguez, $75,000
Lenox St., 1910: RTD Properties and Management to R. Do, $40,000
Lewis St., 321: D. Licciardello to R. Neely, $114,900
Luce St., 2354 & 2356: L. Salcedo to C. Santiago, $102,000
Market St., 1829: D. & S. Parikh to G. Allen, $69,000
Market St., 2211: G. Dunn to S., J. & M. Buckham, $84,400
Muench St., 402: M. Huynh to SA Home Solutions LLC, $30,000
Mulberry St., 1842: A. Woolridge to A. Faican & E. Sumbra, $49,900
North St., 1609: W. Davis to R. Cantave, $120,000
N. 2nd St., 901 & 903: W. & J. Hobbie to B. Golper & WG PA Holdings LLC, $365,000
N. 2nd St., 907: D. Pong to R. Anspach Jr., 173,900
N. 3rd St., 1636: MJ Trust Properties LLC & C. Jurasits to Fratelli Property Investment LLC, $110,000
N. 4th St., 2443: T. & K. Malesic to W. Lawrence, $80,000
N. 5th St., 2605: Harrisburg Homes Investment LLC to NGDGR Company Inc., $48,000
N. 6th St., 2605: A. & P. Ashenberg to R2 Property Group LLC, $43,000
N. 7th St., 2400: J. Holmes & BAS Tax Services Corp. to DAP 7 Curtin LP, $270,000
N. 7th St., 2640: Q. Higgs to Riley Residential Real Estate LLC, $35,000
N. 15th St., 1121: Golden Lover Realty LLC to B. Shephard & N. Cook, $39,000
N. 15th St., 1415: J. & O. Hearn to E. Mantilla, $43,500
Peffer St., 613: K. Timmons to J. Santiago, $46,000
Penn St., 1336: H. & L. Roberts to J. O’Neill, $36,100
Penn St., 2105: G. Hanslovan to T. Hage, $45,000
Penn St., 2139: PA Capital Area Investments LLC to DHS Team LLC, $30,000
Reily St., 333: Dobson Family Partnership to ADS Investments LLC, $89,900
Seneca St., 241: J. Williamson to CR Property Group, $32,500
S. 13th St., 1403: M. Stewart to B. Price Jr., $38,000
S. 14th St., 916: 916 S. 14th Street Partnership to Harrisburg Housing Authority, $1,150,000
S. 14th St., 1435 & 1400 Randolph St.: A. Ingram Jr. & W. Blankenship to City of Harrisburg, $43,000
S. 20th St., 1100: Paxton Street Home Benevolent Society Inc. to Paxton Place I LP, $250,000
S. 21st St., 922: A. Mariluz Jr. to D. Ramos, $68,000
State St., 231, Unit 304: P. Brommer to BCRA Realty LLC, $102,000
Susquehanna St., 1805: HBG Rents LLC to V. & C. Vergara, $61,000
Sycamore St., 1711: Leonard J. Dobson Family LP to H. Yunis, $70,000
Valley Rd., 2305: J. Dunn & A. Meyers to J. Alpert, $179,900
Verbeke St., 233: D. Varno & C. Johnson to E. Herrmann & L. Hall, $126,900
Walnut St., 1232: Valley Real Estate Holdings LLC to C. & C. Hinckley, $33,000
Wayne St., 1517: J. Alvarado to A. Sweet Sr., $120,000