An optimistic Linda Thompson presented her 2013 budget to city council Tuesday evening, saying she's confident that with the help of the state-appointed receiver, Harrisburg can finally clear a major hurdle in its debt nightmare -- the leasing of parking garages and sale of the incinerator.
"We're optimistic about having it done probably by the second quarter, if not by year's end," Thompson told reporters following her budget address.
In the $56.4 million budget, the mayor calls for unfreezing 16 police positions lost over the past two years. She also wants to increase firefighter hiring to reduce on overtime.
The plan also contains the addition of a $70,000/a year spokesperson -- a post currently being filled "pro bono" by Bob Philbin.
"That's something we've stood against for the last year and a half or so," city councilman Brad Koplinski said. "I need to speak to my colleagues, but right now that's something I don't support. I'd rather see a police officer or firefighter hired than a spokesperson."
But with decreased revenue across the city, the mayor's plan still has a $3.1 million shortfall. Thompson said she wants to increase money coming in by re-structuring fees, and continuing the earned income tax hike for at least the year.
"We've done all the heavy lifting we can," she said. "We can't reduce the budget anymore, we can't downsize personnel anymore, and all of the heavy lifting is going to have to come from our creditors and we're expecting our creditors to take some loss."
City council members say they'll examine each and every line item with a fine-toothed comb.
"I know (the mayor) doesn't want that, but we have to take a look," Koplinski said. "This is not our money; it's the people's money."
Koplinski also said bankruptcy is still a viable option for the city. A court-ordered filing ban expires this Friday.
Council will hold its first budget committee hearing December 5th. A final vote is slated for December 18th. The public will be able to view the preliminary budget beginning Wednesday at the city clerk's office or at www.harrisburgpa.gov.