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York City budget hearings will be different this year

Julia Scheib
505-5439/@JuliaDispatch
Bracey

The second round of budget hearings will look different this year than in years past, said York City Business Administrator Michael Doweary.

On Thursday evening and again on next Wednesday, Dec. 9, he and Mayor Bracey will come before council to present their proposed budget, one department at a time.

Usually, the department heads present their budgets individually.

"It's really just a repeat of everything that was stated at the mayor's budget hearings," Doweary said.

Department heads have been talking with the administration about next year's budget for the past five months. "It's all played out now," he said.

"If I need to be there, I'll be ready," said Fire Chief David Michaels.

The fire chief said he didn't feel a pressing need to be at the hearings.

Doweary and Mayor Bracey decided to present the budget themselves to expedite the process and to relieve stress on city employees, Doweary said. "They've dealt with a lot of cuts this year," he said.

Presenting at the hearings would be just one more task on department heads' mounting to-do lists, he said.

Plus, Doweary sees the second round of hearings, which aren't even required by law, as redundant.

Mayor Bracey agreed. The second round of hearings is a waste of time and resources, she said, and in the future she hopes to cut it out altogether, accomplishing everything in the first round of hearings, which are required by law.

The vote: Council is required to pass the budget by the end of the year, said Council President Carol Hill-Evans.

"We're hoping to vote on it by Dec. 15," she said.

"It's my understanding that the department heads will not be in attendance," Hill-Evans said.

One reason for department heads to be at the hearings is to answer specific questions council may have.

Questions: "I guess my only concern would be that it might delay the process if we have questions (Mayor Bracey and Doweary) can't answer," Hill-Evans said.

Councilman Henry Nixon said he thought the mayor and business administrator were better prepared to answer questions than the department heads.

"Ultimately much hinges on the distribution of expenses," he said. The budget is a very complicated beast: in addition to the obvious costs you might think of, like employee salaries and equipment, extraneous costs like risk management and insurance play a big part, he said.

"The formulas in there are extremely complicated," he said.

Council can make changes to the proposed budget if enough members agree on something: with at least a 3-2 vote they can subtract funds from a line item and with a 4-1 vote they can add funds.

The mayor can veto changes council makes, and council can override the veto with a 4-1 vote, Hill-Evans said.

The budgets for elected officials, the solicitor's office, the Human Relations Commission, Public Works and the Department of Economic and Community Development will be presented at city council chambers at 6:30 p.m.Thursday, Dec.4 at City Hall, 101 S. George St.

Budgets for the fire/rescue department, the police department and the Department of Business Administration will be presented at the same time and place Wednesday, Dec. 9.

There will be an opportunity for public comment at both sessions.

— Reach Julia Scheib at jscheib@yorkdispatch.com.