LOCAL

York City, flush with cash from sewer plant sale, hashes out 2023 budget

Noel Miller
York Dispatch

York City's 2023 budget proposal calls for a nearly 8% increase in spending — including the hiring of more police officers and several infrastructure projects — but it won't mean increasing property taxes.

Why?

As Mayor Michael Helfrich puts it, the city has "an unprecedented amount of funds" after it paid off its outstanding debts via the sale of the wastewater treatment plant. A quick scan of the $104 million budget proposal bears this out: Every debt service line item from 2022 has been zeroed out for the coming year.

The plant's $235.3 million sale to Pennsylvania American Water both lifted the burden of aging infrastructure and helped pay off debt largely associated with health care and pension costs, Helfrich said.

The City of York's wastewater treatment plant Wednesday, March 3, 2021. The York City Council on Tuesday approved the sale of its wastewater treatment system. Bill Kalina photo

Around $30 million went to paying the minimum municipal obligation payments for 2020, 2021 and 2022, and about $29 million was used for 2023 expenses and and municipal obligation payments combined, he said.

Helfrich said the combination of the wastewater plant sale and the use of federal American Rescue Plan Act funding — the city was awarded $35 million in COVID-relief funding last year — kept property tax rates flat and eased the city's longstanding financial stress.

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According to Helfrich, ARPA funds will help pay for the hiring of four out of his proposed six new police officers in 2023. The other two officers will be paid via a separate grant the police department received.

York City Mayor Michael Helfrich discusses the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act and how it will likely impact the community at York City Hall in York City, Monday, Sept. 26, 2022. Dawn J. Sagert/The York Dispatch

Under the current city code, the department is capped at 100 officers — with an exception for those funded by outside grants.

Police Capt. Daniel Lentz said the department hopes to hire 13 new officers in the coming year. That includes the six already confirmed new hires to replace officers retiring this year.

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The City Council has already held two budget workshops in which various city departments discussed their budget requests. The body is expected to discuss the budget again at the next city council meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday. The proceedings will be livestreamed on the White Rose Community Television website, www.wrct.tv/.

— Reach Noel Miller at NMiller3@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @TheNoelM.