A major announcement for the capital city… Harrisburg’s mayor, Eric Papenfuse, says the city has balanced its budget for this year. This comes after the city instituted a hiring freeze and other savings measures earlier in the year in an effort to get where it is today.
The mayor says this year’s achievement is a first for the city. An almost 4 million dollar deficit is now reduced to a truly and legitimate balanced budget. Papenfuse has accomplished what he promised, and that is bringing the city out of the red.
"This is the first balanced budget in anyone's memory for the city of Harrisburg," says Mayor Eric Papenfuse.
Papenfuse says the city did this by living within its means and instituting a severe hiring freeze for every department. That on top of implementing increased revenue from the city's earned income tax ultimately balanced the budget.
"That sacrifice of everyone involved and through a very very careful monitoring of all expenditures and not just through a payroll, we were able to close that gap slowly over the course of the year," says Papenfuse.
Recovery coordinator, Fred Reddig, says the city knew this was going to happen because of the 'Strong Plan'. He's estimating the city will actually end the year in a 1.5 million dollar surplus. But all of this didn't come without some drama, which happened at Tuesday night's city council meeting. City council is at odds over whether to give police chief, Thomas Carter, a raise - or how council president, Wanda Williams explains it - a pay restoration.
"Some of our council members indicated that this would be an increase in salary and it would affect the budget. It certainly did not affect the budget because the money is already in the police fund," says council president, Wanda Williams.
Williams wants the city to restore Carter's pay back to its base salary of 94,000 dollars. It's about 7,000 more than what he's making now. Despite the fact that the salary boost wouldn't impact the budget, Papenfuse still waits to wait.
"There's no free money anywhere so I think the chief is deserving of a raise, I think he should be paid more. I think a lot of people are so if we're going to do certain raises, we've got to make sure we do them responsibly and we pay for them somewhere else in the budget," says Papenfuse.
Wanda Williams also added that the city is losing 50,000 dollars a month because it hasn't been able to implement all the amendments required under the recovery plan. There is a meeting scheduled Monday to do that. Williams says there hasn't been enough staff in the city solicitor's office to draft the legislation. Papenfuse says that money which amounts to 300,000 dollars is from unpaid parking tickets. That does not impact the city's already balanced budget.