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Two public hearings to be held ahead of York City budget adoption

Rebecca Klar
York Dispatch

Mayor Michael Helfrich will hold the first of two 2019 city budget hearings at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 13, at York City Hall. The second will be held at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 14. 

The public can watch the hearings on a Facebook livestream and White Rose Community Television, Channel 18, or go to City Hall, 101 S. George St. 

York City Mayor Michael Helfrich speaks during a York NAACP Chapter meeting at Crispus Attucks Community Center Tuesday, August 28, 2018, regarding a promotional video released by the city's police department. Bill Kalina photo

The proposed budget will be presented for the City Council to introduce at a Tuesday, Nov. 20, meeting, and it must be adopted before Dec. 31. 

Copies of the draft budget are available for the public to view on the city website

The draft budget was uploaded to the website at 7:14 p.m. Monday, Nov. 12, a little less than 24 hours ahead of the first public hearing.

Council members and department heads were notified of the hearings on Wednesday, Nov. 7, and the public was notified in legal ads on Saturday, Nov. 10, said city spokesman Phillip Given. 

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At the first hearing, Helfrich will present the budget for the solicitor's office, the Human Relations Commission, the Public Works Department and the Economic and Community Development Department. 

York City Council members, from left, Vice President Sandie Walker, President Henry Nixon, Judy Ritter-Dixon and Edquina Washington take the stage during a York City Council Town Hall Meeting at Logos Academy in York City, Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2018. Dawn J. Sagert photo

At Wednesday's hearing, Helfrich will present the budget for the Fire and Rescue Department, Police Department and business administration. 

'A very, very hard budget': In his latest Monday Message, Helfrich encouraged the public to give feedback on the draft budget and noted difficulties the budget team is facing — especially regarding health care costs. 

"It's a very, very hard budget," Helfrich said. "Health care, I'm sure if you pay insurance you may understand how health care costs are going through the roof. Imagine paying the health care costs for hundreds and hundreds of people."

This is the first budget process since Helfrich became mayor. He's previously been a part of the process as a council member.

Last year, while sitting as mayor-elect and City Council president, Helfrich was one of two council members to vote against a budget that raised the salaries of three of former Mayor Kim Bracey's top deputies by more than $10,000. 

Mayor C. Kim Bracey holds up the "key to the city" she presented to Chief Wesley Kahley after announcing his retirement at the end of the year, Monday, Dec. 4, 2017. John A. Pavoncello photo

Edquina Washington, then director of community relations, was one of the three who received the salary hike despite Helfrich's disapproval. That position was eliminated when Helfrich became mayor.

Washington currently serves as a city councilwoman. 

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The other salary increases went to Shilvosky Buffaloe, interim director of Economic and Community Development, and Michael Doweary, former business administrator.

Despite the raises, which Helfrich had said lacked reasoning, Bracey's final budget kept her promise to work toward a 15 percent real estate tax reduction between 2016 and 2020. 

The 4 percent property tax cut was part of a five-year plan, Vision 2020.