York City Council passes budget with tax cut, fee increases

Jason Addy, 505-5437/@JasonAddyYD

The York City Council approved a budget compromise Tuesday night by a four-to-one vote.

Council Vice President Henry Nixon and members Sandie Walker, Renee Nelson and Judy Ritter-Dickson voted in favor of a budget calling for a 2 percent property tax reduction coupled with a 4.6 percent sewer rate increase and a $1 per month increase in residential trash collection bills.

Council President Michael Helfrich voted against the proposal.

The York City Council debates the city's 2017 budget on Tuesday, Dec. 6.

York City Mayor Kim Bracey’s original budget proposal called for a 2 percent property tax cut and a 10.3 percent sewer fee increase to maintain revenues.

Helfrich proposed a budget with a 1 percent property tax cut and a 2.9 percent sewer fee increase, but his plan did not receive enough support to be considered.

Under the approved 2017 city budget, homeowners with an assessed property value of $50,000 will save about $20 while homeowners with an assessed property value of $100,000 will save $40.

Water usage fees will increase 50 cents per 1,000 gallons, with the new rate set at $9.15 per 1,000 gallons. Residential refuse collection bills will increase by $1 per month, while commercial collection fees will increase $2 per month for 2017.

The budget, as approved by the council, will now head to Bracey’s desk for her concurrence after significant reductions were made to sewer maintenance line-items.

Bracey’s administration was hoping for $1 million for much-needed sewer infrastructure maintenance and repairs, but the council’s 2017 budget includes about $500,000, with the rest of the repairs to be paid for in 2018.

Reducing the sewer line-items allowed the council to drop the increase in sewer fees from 10.3 percent to 4.6 percent while still maintaining revenues.

Treasurer's Office: Though the budget has been finalized by the council, there is still work to be done behind the scenes to ensure the York City Treasurer’s Office can function normally in the new year.

The mayor’s administration has an agreement in place with the county to consolidate real estate tax collection services, which was reflected in reduced funding for the city treasurer’s budget.

By law, however, the city treasurer must collect real estate taxes on behalf of the county, York City School District and the city. No agreement has been made between the school district and the county, leaving the city with the legal responsibility to collect those taxes, creating “a fiasco in the treasurer’s office,” Helfrich said.

“The administration’s budget, and the budget approved by all but me, cuts staff and other funding to the point that they cannot complete the tasks required by law of the Treasurer’s Office,” Helfrich said.

Without an agreement between the district and the county to reduce the workload, or more funding, York City Treasurer Joe Jefcoat told the council he will be forced to eliminate a clerk’s position in the office on Jan. 1 — leaving the treasurer’s office with just one full-time employee and Jefcoat, who is technically a part-time employee.

Jefcoat also told the council that there is no money in the approved budget to send out the next round of real estate tax bills on Jan. 1.

York City Treasurer Joe Jefcoat speaks to City Council about the city's 2017 budget on Tuesday, Dec. 6.

With the city looking to consolidate tax collection services with the county, Jefcoat said he feels the administration is trying to “force a structural change” by underfunding his office.

“I feel that they’re using finances to force the merge, to force us to move tax collection to the county,” Jefcoat said. “They’re cutting the budget to try to force us to move tax collection to the county, which they can’t do.”

Nixon said he expects the problem to be resolved over the next few weeks, ensuring next year’s tax bills are sent out on time.

Despite the confusion over the City Treasurer’s Office, council clerk Dianna Thompson-Mitchell said the council was able to approve a final budget in the shortest amount of time in at least 20 years.