York's business administrator, the guy who keeps the closest eye on the city's wallet, said Monday that he is "100 percent" sure city taxpayers will be spared a municipal property tax increase this year.
"The mayor has decreed that there will be no tax increase," Michael O'Rourke said.
O'Rourke made the comment after the first of five budget hearings planned for this week, the first step in a process to adopt a balanced 2013 budget before Jan. 1.
Last year, the process ended with a 17 percent property tax increase at a last-minute York City Council meeting on Dec. 31. By far, city residents pay more in property taxes than residents of any other York County municipality.
The Department of Public Works, led by Director Jim Gross, proposed its 2013 budget Monday with almost no major expense increases.
"We're trying to hold the line wherever we can," Gross said, adding that he's hopeful a tax increase can be avoided.
Mayor Kim Bracey has directed all departments to keep their budgets at current levels, O'Rourke said.
Reasons for optimism: O'Rourke said he can be so optimistic for a few reasons.
First of all, he said, the city has successfully collected more than $880,000 this year in overdue sewer and trash bills.
The owners of nearly 1,500 city properties have settled their balance or set up payment plans in the months since city officials launched a program designed to reward people who came forward and punish those who did not.
Secondly, the city's minimum municipal obligation - an annual payment to support retired employees with a pension fund - will go down in 2013, O'Rourke said.
And, finally, health insurance - a yearly expense that can fluctuate dramatically - seems to be stable, he said.
Staff from the community and economic development department will present a budget at 1 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 101 S. George St.
The business administration department will present at the same time and place on Wednesday, followed by the city's police and fire departments - which account for the biggest chunk of the city's operating expenses - Thursday.
The public will have an opportunity to comment at each of the meetings, including a 10 a.m. session on Friday, set aside specifically for public testimony. Written comments can be submitted to email@example.com.
- Erin James may also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.