Bracey proposes tax cut, fee increase, salary hikes in 2018 York City budget
As Mayor Kim Bracey prepares to hand over York City’s reins to Mayor-elect Michael Helfrich, a number of proposed salary increases in Bracey’s proposed 2018 budget are threatening to ramp up tensions between the two.
Bracey’s budget proposal for next year makes good on her long-standing promise to cut property taxes by 4 percent, though some of that revenue will be recouped with a 2 percent increase in refuse fees.
The cut represents a $39.50 annual decrease in real estate taxes for property owners with homes valued at $50,000, while the fee increase will see residential refuse bills go up 50 cents per month.
A similar move by Bracey’s administration to balance property tax cuts in the 2017 budget with sewer fee increases drew criticism from Helfrich during last year’s budget negotiations, but it appears the proposed raises for some of the outgoing mayor’s top administrative officials will be the focus of negotiations over the next month.
Bracey is proposing five-figure raises for three officials — the city’s director of community affairs, business administrator and director of economic and community affairs — and more modest pay increases for seven others in a move that Helfrich said will create an immediate Catch-22 for his administration.
“I think it is a poor decision for an outgoing administrator to put the incoming administrator in this position. I feel like I have been placed in a no-win situation,” Helfrich said.
If he denies the pay raises, Helfrich said, his relationship with the directors in his administration could be “poisoned.” But if he approves the pay raises, Helfrich said, he will be seen as breaking his promise to voters “that I would be a watchdog for their fiscal interests.”
'Loose comparison': In a Nov. 17 email to council members, Bracey said she directed business administrator Michael Doweary to do a “pay rate survey” of six Pennsylvania cities — Reading, Lancaster, Bethlehem, Harrisburg, Allentown and Erie — examining the salaries of officials serving in similar roles as York City’s directors.
Those salaries were then averaged and compared to the salaries of York City officials in what Helfrich called “a very loose comparison of salaries without any context.”
For eight of the 10 offices surveyed, York City pay for its officials was less than the average paid by the other six cities, prompting the proposals for raises.
In her email, Bracey touts the need for a “good compensation plan” to “attract and retain qualified, high-performing talent,” while the proposed raises will better “reflect differences and similarities in levels of responsibility and accountability” within city departments.
Bracey and Doweary did not respond to calls for comment Thursday, Nov. 30.
Five-figure raises: If Bracey’s proposals are approved by the council, Doweary’s salary as business administrator will jump nearly $16,000 to $110,000, while Shilvosky Buffaloe, the acting director of economic and community development, would pocket an extra $11,248 for a total of $95,000 in 2018.
Bracey also has proposed a nearly $11,000 raise for the director of community affairs, Edquina Washington.
“I either start off by making them mad or I’m disloyal to the voters who put me in office,” Helfrich said of the situation Bracey’s proposals put him in. “It’s certainly not something that I would do as an outgoing CEO of a company.”
Helfrich said he will appeal to his council colleagues to vote down the raises on Tuesday, Dec. 5, and table the proposal until he takes office as mayor and can conduct his own salary review, based on job qualifications, education and work history.
“I’m happy to entertain a performance-based evaluation (for) potential raises,” Helfrich said.