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Harrisburg approves balanced budget for 2017

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HARRISBURG, Pa. - Council members approved a $65 million budget Tuesday that city officials say lays the groundwork toward a path of fiscal responsibility now and in the future.

The proposed budget from Mayor Eric Papenfuse was left largely untouched, although there were a few minor amendments to the city's spending plan for 2017.

"We've got a balanced budget, we've got millions of dollars going to critical capital improvements, the process was transparent, free of controversy, and I think we're modeling the best of government right here in Harrisburg," Papenfuse said after the vote.

One addition from the council was for funding to train Harrisburg police officers on interactions with people who have mental health issues. The budget calls for body cameras and tasters for every officer, along with some new police cruisers. Those officers and some unionized city employees will see a small pay raise.

"It's been years that we've tried to balance a budget in the city of Harrisburg and they went for five, six years without any type of increase overall for the last years, so that was very important for me," council president Wanda Williams said.

The budget calls for millions of dollars for a new public works facility, needed since the lease on the current facility, a former car dealership, ends in the new year.

"We're going to do a lot for the residents, getting a lot of new equipment for public works, and doing a lot of street repairs," Williams said.

City leaders acknowledge that more needs to be done to exit Act 47, the state's program for financially distressed communities. The city faces a 2018 deadline to leave, and has to show the state it can maintain a sustainable budget without some of the temporary taxes permitted under the program.

But they believe this is a positive step.

"The city is on the road to recovery, we have a sustainable budget, and we invite [people] to come experience the holiday season in Harrisburg, where the very best is on display right here," Papenfuse said.