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City Council to vote on 2017 budget

Jason Addy
York Dispatch
  • On Tuesday, the York City Council will consider a few different budget proposals for the upcoming year.

York City Council will look to approve one of two proposals for the city’s 2017 budget when its members meet on Tuesday night.

The council has been in discussions with York City Mayor Kim Bracey for the last month over her administration’s spending plan for 2017, with the mayor looking for another small reduction in property taxes.

Nixon’s proposal: According to council President Michael Helfrich, the mayor removed her original budget proposal from the table and is now supporting Councilman Henry Nixon’s proposal, which calls for a 2 percent property tax cut to be offset by a 4.6 percent increase in sewer fees to maintain revenue.

Bracey wants to lower property taxes 15 percent from 2015 levels by the end of 2019 to make the city a more attractive place for potential residents and investors.

With many surrounding municipalities raising property tax rates, Bracey said, the city can leverage its tax cuts to bring new business and investment into the city.

“Property taxes is one way to level the playing field,” Bracey said, though she admitted the small tax cuts “may be more of a psychological piece” than anything for some investors.

York City Mayor Kim Bracey. Bil Bowden photo

With the property tax rate dropping from 20.16 mills to 19.75 mills, homeowners with an assessed property value of $50,000 would save $20.50 in 2017. Homeowners with an assessed property value of $100,000 would save $40 in 2017.

Though the city’s infrastructure “needs significant attention,” Nixon said, the work should be done incrementally to take some financial burden off of the city for 2017. Likewise, Nixon’s plan also calls for reductions in funding for sewer maintenance and capital projects in order to temper the increase in sewer fees.

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Helfrich’s proposal: Helfrich introduced the other budget proposal, presenting the council with an option for smaller tax cuts and fee increases.

Helfrich’s proposal calls for a 1 percent property tax cut, with a 2.9 percent increase in sewer fees to maintain revenue.

York City Council President Michael Helfrich asks candidates questions during a special council meeting held to publicly interview candidates for the open seat, at City Hall in York City, Monday, Nov. 21, 2016. Dawn J. Sagert photo

The council president argued that the property tax cut will not help many of York City’s residents who rent their homes, though they will be hit by the increase in sewer fees.

“It’s another example where I feel like particularly the families of York, the lower-income families of York, are getting the short end of the stick,” Helfrich said. “When you raise sewer fees and you reduce property taxes, the people that get hurt the most are the people with families that live in lower-value properties. Families that are already struggling, kids that already need a little extra help, their resources are reduced.”

The city should be trying “to do the most good for the greatest number of people,” Helfrich said. He said about 800 properties in the city are worth more than $100,000 and more than 7,500 properties are valued less than $50,000.

“To me, trying our best to do as little harm as possible to the (lower-income households) should be our goal,” Helfrich said. “And ethically, trying to help improves the lives of the poorest of our citizens should be our goal.”

Helfrich said the city can no longer put off the costs of updating its infrastructure, and suggested the council should look to cut expenses elsewhere.

Bracey and Helfrich were on opposite sides of the debate over property taxes and sewer-fee increases last year, and the issue is set to be center-stage again as city officials look to finalize the 2017 budget.

Unlike last year, however, Helfrich is now running for Bracey’s seat in the mayor’s office.

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Despite their differences, Helfrich said he and Bracey share the same budgetary philosophy.

“The Mayor and I absolutely agree that we need to bring taxes down, not just for property owners, but to attract jobs to give more opportunities to the people in this city,” Helfrich said.

The council will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the council's chambers at York City Hall.