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3 takeaways from York City budget hearing

Julia Scheib
505-5439/@JuliaDispatch

The proposed budget hasn't been changed since it was put forth by Mayor Kim Bracey on Nov. 17, said York City Business Administrator Michael Doweary. The budget is still free of layoffs and furloughs and includes a 1 percent property tax decrease.

Bracey

But when Doweary and Bracey came before the City Council at the first of a second round of budget hearings Thursday night, there was some debate over personnel changes and other issues.

Here are three takeaways from the hearing, at which the City Council heard descriptions of the budgets for elected officials, the solicitor's office, the Human Relations Commission, the Department of Public Works and the Department of Economic and Community Development.

Latino liaison: When the DECD's budget was discussed, Councilman Michael Helfrich brought up the idea of reinstating the Latino liaison position.

Last year, he said, additional duties were added to that position, and consequently the person filling it quit.

There is still a need for that position, he said, citing the fact that 28 percent of the city's population identifies as Latino.

Instead of reinstating the full-time position, Helfrich proposed, the city could hire back the same person at 10 hours a week at a cost of about $10,000 per year.

"That wouldn't get us everything," he said, but it would continue the effort the mayor had started to connect with Spanish-speakers.

Helfrich said he would make a proposal to add the position at council's meeting on Dec. 15. He will need the support of three of his fellow council members.

Council President Carol Hill-Evans and Councilman David Satterlee were skeptical.

Hill-Evans raised the concern that if the person Helfrich had in mind backs out, the plan won't work, and Satterlee said he didn't think it was realistic to expect someone working only 10 hours a week to take on that much responsibility.

Treasurer's office: The administration has decided to move the now-vacant clerk-cashier position in the treasurer's office to the finance bureau.

Treasurer Karin Krebs was troubled by the idea. Her office will soon be taken over by Joe Jefcoat, who said he was surprised by the change.

Funding for the temporary staff the office hires during especially busy times was removed as well.

Krebs raised the concern that with the reduction in staff, the office might not be attended during all office hours.

Doweary said the clerks in the finance bureau could fill in at the treasurer's office during busy times, but the treasurer and some members of the council were skeptical.

After the hearing, Hill-Evans said the council would discuss reversing the change and possibly vote on it at the Dec. 15 meeting.

Ice rink: Council members were curious about the status of the city-owned ice rink.

Doweary said he is working to refinance the debt related to improvements made to the facility about 15 years ago, which amounts to $3.2 million to $3.3 million.

The ice rink is not something the city would like to keep.

"It's an asset that we're losing on," he said.

Last hearing: The second budget hearing is at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. Budgets for Fire/Rescue, the police department and the Department of Business Administration will be discussed, and there will again be an opportunity for public comment.

— Reach Julia Scheib at jscheib@yorkdispatch.com.