York Mayor John Brenner's proposed 2010 budget does not raise residents' property taxes but does cut several vacant positions and increase some fees in order to close a $7 million gap between requested expenses and projected revenue.
"This is a significant gap for the city to close," he said Thursday at a news conference, "one of the biggest we've encountered."
The 2010 budget process was one of the most difficult he's encountered, he said, other than 2003, when severe staff reductions were made.
"It's been very difficult, but we know that city residents ... are hurting," he said. "We know the economic downturn has affected many families."
The last thing they need is a tax increase, he said.
While the proposed $37 million general fund budget does not raise taxes, it does eliminate some positions and increase sewer and refuse fees and some fines.
The budget proposes to cut 10 jobs, nine of which are or will be soon vacant: six police jobs, two firefighter positions and one public works job. Also proposed to be cut is a special programs coordinator position in recreation, which is held by a longtime employee.
"Obviously, we don't want to reduce positions at all, particularly in public safety," Brenner said.
But, he said, the police department has been working with 104 officers all year since the other six positions were vacant. Statistics show the most serious crime in the city has been decreasing, he said, and he believes that trend can continue with the current number of officers.
The city will continue to seek sources other than the general fund to try to fund the additional positions in the future, he said.
The budget proposal also eliminates the unpopular practice of towing cars that are not moved for street sweeping. Instead, the street sweeping fine will raised to $50, according to the proposal.
Brenner said he's hopeful the increased fine will be enough to encourage residents to move their cars, without towing.
The mayor also proposed a review of the fire department, including station location, apparatus and staffing. The review will begin in December.
The general fund expenses increased about $950,000 from 2009. While there has been no inflation, the city's expenses have continued to go up because of health care costs, pension costs and contractual obligations, said Michael O'Rourke, the city's business administrator.
Meanwhile, the city's tax base has remained the same, he said. Though officials were able to scrape by without a tax increase this year, he said, "the future does not promise that we will be able to do that."
The budget was given to the York City Council, which will hold a series of hearings. A budget must be approved by Dec. 31.
York Mayor John Brenner proposed the following in his 2010 budget:
Property tax rate: no increase
Sewer rate: increase of 50 cents per thousand gallons (expected to be about $2.50 per month for the average household)
Refuse rate: increase of 50 cents per home or business per month
Street sweeping fine: increase to $50, towing is eliminated
Double parking fine: increase to $50
Handicapped parking fine: increase to $100
Fine for parking too close to fire hydrant: increase to $100
Eliminate: Six vacant police department positions, two vacant firefighter positions, one vacant public works position and the filled position of recreation special program coordinator
Michael O'Rourke, the city's business administrator, said Thursday that the state must address "revenue-generating deficiencies" facing municipalities, or the city will have to continue to raise fees, fines and taxes.
The city has pushed for a local option sales tax, a state proposal that now appears dead, according to the budget documents.
O'Rourke also advocated for dividing the earned income tax between the municipalities where a person lives and works. The city has plenty of well-paying jobs, he said, but they are mostly held by people who do not live in the city.
According to the budget proposal, those who work in the city and "depend" on city services, pay only $1 a week in taxes to the city because they work there but don't live there.