If York City has a Mr. Know-It-All, there's no question his name is Michael O'Rourke.

The city's business administrator of more than a decade, O'Rourke is the go-to guy for answers about revenue, expenses and anything else with a dollar sign in front of it. The 62 year old is also, by his own admission, stretched too thin at work.

That's part of the reason, O'Rourke said, that Mayor Kim Bracey has proposed to add an assistant business administrator to the city payroll next year. The $55,000 expense is included in Bracey's 2013 budget proposal, a version of which the council must approve before Jan. 1.

But, at least one York City Council member is interested in hiring more than just an assistant to O'Rourke.

At a budget hearing that lasted more than five hours Thursday night, Councilman Michael Helfrich said he'd like the city to develop some sort of succession plan, a strategy to replace O'Rourke when he retires or if he moves on sooner.

Perhaps, Helfrich said, the assistant business administrator would be the next person in line.

That proposal, O'Rourke said, requires city officials to confront another of its financial issues. Finding qualified candidates for high-skill jobs is not easy, and the city is not particularly competitive when it comes to salaries, O'Rourke said.

For example, O'Rourke said, if he were somewhere else and saw an ad for his current job, "I don't know that I would apply for it.


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O'Rourke's salary this year is $101,750, according to the mayor's budget document.

A borough manager in Carlisle was recently hired at a starting salary of about $130,000, O'Rourke said.

Helfrich asked what kind of salary the city should budget to attract a qualified assistant - someone who might also be a sort of apprentice to O'Rourke.

"What kind of number do we have to put in there to make sure we are prepared for the future?" Helfrich asked.

There's not a simple answer, O'Rourke said. The $55,000 budgeted in the mayor's 2013 proposal isn't intended to be a full year's salary, for example. O'Rourke called it a "placeholder" that will give city officials time to draft a job description, interview candidates and get someone on the payroll.

"I want to hire somebody who's going to work with me, who I can turn my back on," O'Rourke said.

Councilman Henry Nixon said he's also worried about O'Rourke's ability to handle all of his position's responsibilities.

"My concern is that you can't get all of the work done that is being demanded of you," Nixon said.

The council will meet to continue its budget discussion at 6:30 p.m. Monday in council chambers at City Hall, 101 S. George St. Tentative approval of the 2013 budget is scheduled for the council's meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 18.

Bracey has proposed no increase to the city's property-tax rate in 2013.

- Erin James may also be reached at ejames@yorkdispatch.com.