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Harrisburg Strong plan not enough to prevent mid-year deficit - abc27 WHTM

Harrisburg Strong plan not enough to prevent mid-year deficit

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) -

Some Harrisburg City Council members are a bit surprised the city is looking at a $1.8-million deficit already, less than half a year into the Harrisburg Strong financial recovery plan.

"Actually I was really very, very upset when I heard about that because we have a hiring freeze and we just completed a big financial deal December 31st," council president Wanda Williams said. "And three months into the year we're doing a hiring freeze and we're at a budget deficit."

"That was a surprise to us," added councilman Brad Koplinski. "We had thought with the Harrisburg Strong plan that we would be able to carry on throughout the year without financial difficulty."

Mayor Eric Papenfuse said the deal erased all the long-term debt, but he says the city still has structural issues that will have to be dealt with yearly. He felt a hiring freeze early in the year would be the way to go to balance the budget.

"We have to very carefully monitor the situation," Papenfuse said. "We know it's going to be a tight budget. Nobody should have ever thought it wouldn't have been very close. We have to make sure our expenses match our revenues."

Papenfuse says the city didn't save as much as they expected on the firefighters contract and that the city is not sure what tax revenues will be. He says the freeze will hold until at least June 1 when they can find out better what those revenues are.

"It's nothing like it was in the past when you're dealing with huge deficits, borrowing a lot of money from areas where the city shouldn't have borrowed and where the city can't borrow any more," Papenfuse said.

Koplinski says this issue will not put the city in danger of missing payroll. He says it would probably become apparent in September or October when the city has to make pension or sewer payments.

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