Oped: Yes, another property tax reduction
As we wrap up the year and look ahead to the 2017 budget year, it seems appropriate to reflect on the progress our administration has made and to reaffirm our Vision 2020 plan, which lays out a path for greater fiscal sustainability and prosperity for the City of York. Over the past 12 months, we have made significant progress towards our goal of creating a competitive tax structure while better serving our taxpayers and moving the City of York forward. Our vision is that the City of York shall be a thriving urban community in which every person is welcome to be safe, successful and happy.
The historical pattern for cities has been to raise real estate taxes to generate revenue. However, in the long term this reduces property values, stymies economic development and pushes property owners out of the City. For York to compete, we need to reverse this trend and create an environment that makes York an attractive place to own property.
With this greater vision in mind, we have set a multi-year plan into action. In 2016 we began implementation of the Vision 2020 plan and reduced real estate taxes with the aim of a 15 percent reduction in real estate taxes over the next five years. In addition, we reduced $5.5 million to our operation deficit and approximately $8 million in past due annual pension fund contributions.
In our proposed 2017 budget year, and with a clear action plan we reduced real estate taxes by 2 percent, enhanced services throughout our community and implemented continued budgetary obligations such as paying down our debt and exploring shared services with the County of York. These steps are critical to reach our financial sustainability goals and lead us to prosperity. We encourage our City Council to support our proposed 2017 budget and the Vision 2020 plan.
As we look to the future we remain committed to responsibly managing our costs, while continuing to improve services. Please know I have not let our state legislators off the hook as our cities in Pennsylvania remain hamstrung by an archaic set of laws to function that are not conducive to 21st century local government. Cities tend to be our county seats, and their fiscal sustainability is inextricably linked to our state legislature passing meaningful property tax reform and municipal pension legislation that would allow our core communities to right our financial ships and chart even brighter futures. It will also take strong collaboration with our public safety unions and our civic, business and municipal partners to position the City as an economic driver for York County.
There is a buzz about the City of York.Dust is in the air as construction projects begin to revitalize our Nation’s First Capital both in our neighborhoods and downtown to build stronger communities. Pockets of development are occurring from the Northwest Triangle to Continental Square, from United Fiber & Data to the redesign of Thackston Park and neighborhoods such as WeCo, Salem Square and Royal Square are taking off. York is in the midst of a renaissance. It is our job to foster continued momentum with greater responsibility to our future.
While the challenges ahead of us are great, the City is fortunate to have an engaged network of regional and local business leaders, a strong Community Foundation and County Commissioners who see the incredible potential of the City as an asset to the County at large. As we look to the future in how we build improved fiscal sustainability, we know that success requires partnerships, collaborations and forward thinking to bring about greater prosperity. Our Vision 2020 action plan is working, and I look forward to our continued work with our partners to bring about greater prosperity for all.