York City officials talk crime, finances at town hall

Jason Addy
York Dispatch

York City officials delivered a message of progress during Mayor Kim Bracey’s second town hall meeting of the year.

Bracey and a number of her top deputies tried to strike an encouraging tone as they provided updates on the city government’s work over the last three months in the Edgar Fahs Smith STEAM Academy auditorium on Tuesday, July 25.

After a few plugs for the recently launched York City and York City Police mobile apps, Bracey turned the podium over to Michael Doweary, the city’s business administrator.

York City Business Administrator Michael Doweary speaks at a town hall meeting at the Edgar Fahs Smith STEAM Academy, as Mayor Kim Bracey looks on. Wednesday, July 26, 2017. Jason Addy photo.

Officials are making good on some of the promises made by the administration in its five-year Vision 2020 plan, Doweary said, pointing to a 3 percent reduction in property taxes over the last two years, a reduction in the city’s unfunded pension liabilities and a recently upgraded credit rating.

The city must continue to cut its unfunded pension liability, which stands at $60 million, and chip away at its post-employment benefits deficit — a $25 million shortfall, Doweary said.

Officials also must focus their efforts on continuing to reduce property taxes, Doweary said. Property taxes were cut by 1 percent in 2016 and 2 percent in 2017. The city’s Vision 2020 plan calls for real estate tax cuts of 4 percent in 2018 and 8 percent in 2019.

More:York City Council passes budget with tax cut, fee increases

But Doweary warned the tax-cutting progress being made in the city is being undone by tax increases at the county level.

City, county and school district officials must work together to bring real estate taxes down to 3 percent of a property’s value to continue the city’s recent momentum toward better finances, Doweary said.

Violent crime: After an uptick in shootings over the past month, York City Police Chief Wes Kahley spoke about the city’s Group Violence Intervention initiative, which targets the “1 percent or less of people responsible for violence” in the city.

GVI identifies individuals with the highest risk of committing or being victims of gun violence. Once identified, partners in the initiative make it clear to those individuals that gun violence won’t be tolerated while offering tools and support they need to become better citizens.

More:Initiative lays down law on gun violence, offers 2nd chance

Kahley said, in recent months, the GVI has prompted several police details in which officers arrested multiple armed and wanted suspects. 

In part because of the GVI initiative, shootings in 2017 were down 35 percent from last year until multiple shootings in the past month halted that progress, Kahley said. 

More:Homicide of York City woman prompts GVI response

When asked about her plans for tackling violent crime, Bracey again pointed to the Group Violence Intervention initiative as the city’s primary tool.

Bracey noted several other initiatives, such as the city’s youth summer employment program and partnerships with faith-based and community-service organizations, that she said would help curb the violence, but she firmly called on parents to help police address violent crime.

“I think your government is doing quite a bit to do all that we can,” Bracey said. “It’s time for parents — dads, moms, people in their homes — to step up and work alongside us and help address these issues.”

“I can't be in every home. Our police officers can't be in every home. But there's somebody in these homes with these children that need to step up and be the adults that they need in their lives,” Bracey said.