Harrisburg faces $12 million overall budget deficit in 2013 - abc27 WHTM

Harrisburg faces $12 million overall budget deficit in 2013

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Like the difference between pronouncing tomato, 'tom-A-toe' or 'toe-MAH-to,' depending on who you are in Harrisburg hierarchy there are different ways of viewing the budget and, more importantly, the 2013 budget deficit.

When Mayor Linda Thompson presented her third budget proposal to Harrisburg City Council Tuesday night, she confessed the budget was unbalanced. It showed a $3 million gap.

The city's spending plan for 2013 is $56.4 million. However, the projected revenues tops off at $54.3 million - hence the $3 million operating gap.

City Controller Dan Miller, who runs Harrisburg's books, noticed that number is a little low. Miller, now a mayoral candidate, points to two other deficit-inducing figures. On page 137 of the 2013 Harrisburg Budget Proposal, under 'Total Operating Expenses,' Miller argues that the $4 million in 'Anticipated Concessions' are a deficit.

Mayor Thompson said her $3 million figure is based on the projected concessions she believes the unions will make based on future contract negotiations. Miller argued you can't base a budget on 'hopeful' numbers.

Then, there is the issue of the missed 2012 General Obligation payments. On March 15, Harrisburg opted to forgo its $5.27 million payment to creditors involved in the botched incinerator retrofit. In September, state-appointed Receiver William Lynch also chose to miss the city's $3.4 million bond payment. According to Miller that $8.7 million in missed payments should be counted toward the 2013 deficit.

Thompson said not quite.

Like any corporation, Thompson explained, the operating budget is different than the overall budget. Thompson said the operating budget she presented shows a $3 million deficit - yet the overall budget does have a $12 million deficit.

Again…'tom-A-toe' - 'toe-MAH-to.'

Most of the $3 million difference in operating costs go towards public safety, which the mayor vehemently said she won't budget on. Thompson is asking for eight additional police officers.

Thompson also asked for her city spokesperson, Bob Philbin, to be added to next year's payroll - a $70,000 salary. Originally, Philbin was scheduled to make $75,000 in 2012 but City Council never kept the position in the budget.

In September, Commonwealth Court Judge Bonnie Leadbetter ruled that Harrisburg did not need a city spokesperson. She did, however, rule in favor of increasing the Earned Income Tax one percent with the caveat that those revenues be put toward the public safety and welfare for Harrisburg residents.

City Council will hold its first public hearing regarding the 2013 budget on Wednesday, December 5 at 5:30 inside City Hall. Council will vote on a final budget on Dec. 21.

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