York City mulls new budget with significant federal relief funding

Matt Enright
York Dispatch

York City introduced its proposed 2022 budget Tuesday.

Thus far, there's a lot less controversy than last year.

The proposed budget, which maintains the current tax rate and makes use of federal COVID-19 emergency funding, will be considered at the City Council's Dec. 21 meeting.

The American Rescue Plan Act funding — nearly $6.5 million — will help balance out anticipated expenses totaling $102.8 million, according to Kim Robertson, the city's interim business administrator.

York City Hall in York City, Friday, March 23, 2018. Dawn J. Sagert photo

More:High school football star accused of assaulting referee due in court Wednesday

More:Maryland man attacked Yorker outside bar, tried to take prosthetic leg: police

More:Popular Mexican restaurant and a supermarket cited: Food inspections

Robertson said the budget is similar to the 2021 budget, albeit with some added complexity due to the ARPA funds — the first installment of which was received in the last year.

"We used very little of it in 2021, and then we have about $6.4 million in the proposed budget for use in 2022," she said. "Everything else pretty much stayed the same." 

Want to stay updated on York City? Please subscribe to support local journalism.

Robertson said it's tricky to compare the proposed budget to the previous year's because the city has changed how it allocates its internal services to departments.

"Our expenses, we've cut them to the bare minimum over the past 10 years or so," she said. "The department directors and managers are very good about just putting in exactly what they need to function, so there's not much of an increase to the total expenses." 

The 2021 budget process was fraught with uncertainty. A government shutdown was narrowly averted over concerns about the forthcoming wastewater treatment system sale to Pennsylvania American Water for $235 million. The sale also helped avert a significant tax increase and major job cuts.

While York City had been advanced $20 million from Pennsylvania American Water for the sale, Robertson said they'd needed to use very little of it in the 2021 budget. They anticipate using about $18 million to balance the general fund, as well as the completion of the wastewater sale this year.

The tax rate is expected to stay the same, Robertson said. That's $18.97 per thousand dollars of assessed valuation.

For example, a property owner with a home value of $100,000 could expect to pay $1,878 under the proposed budget.

"If you look at your city tax bill from last year, you'll be paying the same thing this year," York City treasurer Joe Jefcoat said of the tax rate.

Robertson said she was anticipating expenses would be lower for the 2022 budget than what was budgeted, mainly because the city is still coming off of the COVID-19 pandemic and isn't at 100% in terms of programs and services offered.

"I think that's going to end up with a bit of a fund balance, which is always a good thing to keep rolling from budget to budget," she said. 

More:High school football star accused of assaulting referee due in court Wednesday

More:Coroner seeks family of man who died in York City

More:Armed men rob York-area pizza shop; police ask for help finding them

More:Restaurant stored marinated meat on the floor: Food inspections

As in past years, the budget will be posted on the York City website as well as being available at the York City Hall, 101 S. George St., York. 

"We've got the bare basics done, and I'm confident that we've got a good, solid budget done that represents the needs of the city," Robertson said.

Mayor Michael Helfrich said the proposed budget was balanced in anticipation of the wastewater sale.

"We were able to pass a budget that did not raise taxes for the fourth year in a row, so we're very happy with that," Helfrich said.

Even without federal funding in the form of ARPA, the tax rate would've remained the same, Helfrich said. That's thanks to the expected income of the wastewater treatment plant sale.

The proposed budget includes an increase of $1.5 million for the police department. Helfrich said that includes hiring ambassadors to go into the community as well as mental health responders who will act as experts on the scene to assist with those experiencing a mental health crisis. 

Matt Enright can be reached via email at menright@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @Matthew_Enright.