York city council overrides mayor’s veto over how to spend $6M in federal rescue money


YORK, Pa. (WHTM) — The short version of the story is, York’s city council got its way Thursday in a dispute with Mayor Michael Helfrich and will have a say in how to spend about $6 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds.

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The longer version is a quadruple negative. Starting with the most recent event: 1) City council members voted 4-1 Thursday to override a veto by Helfrich. (Councilman Lou Rivera was the dissenting vote.) 2) Helfrich had vetoed a 2022 budget approved by the council. 3) That budget, in turn, was actually an amended budget. 4) Helfrich initially submitted a budget with plans to spend the $6 million in ARPA money, which the amended budget left out.

The $6 million in question is part of $17 million in ARPA funds sent so far by the federal government to the city; the other $11 million is allocated uncontroversially to reimburse the city for lost revenue because of — for example — money not collected from parking meters in the pandemic’s early month’s.

City staff surveyed residents about how to spend the money. Helfrich convened a group of community leaders to work with staff to decide how to spend the money. But most council members said they were largely left out of the decision-making process for how to spend an unprecedented infusion of federal government money.

Following the vote to override the veto, Council Vice-President Sandie Walker said she shared some of the mayor’s broad goals and stopped short of calling his process thoughtless. But she did call it hasty.

“There may have been some thought given to it,” Walker said. “But I think it was a rush to get the funding out. And so why not come together, present a plan over the next four years of what we want to do with this funding and how it would best benefit our community.”

Rivera, casting the lone vote in support of Helfrich, chided the mayor for not communicating better with council members. But he said he had been included in the decision-making process and agreed with its outcome.

“I want to give the mayor props because he put together a committee of very good leaders, and I think that they worked very hard,” Rivera said.

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