Harrisburg’s $5M for fire protection may be spent elsewhere

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Harrisburg received the most funding ever for fire protection. But the hefty state bump may be in name only. Some of that cash will be spent elsewhere.

Lawmakers and Harrisburg's mayor Linda Thompson touted a historic $5 million in fire protection funding for the city and Capitol Complex as a big win. But a closer look at the state budget and a breakdown of the funding may show a moral victory instead.

According to the 2013-2014 state budget, a line item shows that $400,000 will go directly to fire protection services. A spokesperson with the state-appointed receiver's office explained the remaining $4.6 million will come to the city in the form of state grants from the Department of Commerce and Economic Development (DCED).

Upon further explanation, that cash could be spent elsewhere other than fire protection because the money would go into the city's general fund.

Maria Batko, who lives in the Olde Uptown neighborhood of the city, said she's not surprised.

“I think the people in Harrisburg should wake up to the sad reality that they have the wrong government, which is governing them,” she said. “That is the short of it.”

The receiver's office said a portion of the $4.6 million would help pay down the city's structural deficit. According to the receiver's latest status report last Friday, the projected year end deficit for 2013 is $15.7 million.

Ronald Quinn, who lives closer to Midtown, believes that strategy may not be the best practice for Harrisburg.

“It's not really a good idea for them to just take that and put it back into the deficit we're going through, because we're still going to be in that rut; we're never going to get out of this hole,” he said.

Harrisburg's State Senator Rob Teplitz was instrumental in securing the funds. When asked about the receiver's plan, gave abc27 this statement.

“A part of the reason the city's in a structural deficit is due to the fact that it has never been properly compensated for providing fire and emergency protection services, so whether it goes directly to the bureau of fire or through grants to the city, the fact of the matter is the city is finally seeing that compensation. Now, the next goal is to ensure that the city continues to be fairly compensated in future budgets.”

Quinn said he agreed that not all the $5 million must got to fire protection, but he would like to see those funds go somewhere where residents can see progress – like parks and recreation.

“If they're going to invest this being that it was owed, they should put it in something that can make some positive things that come out of it,” said Quinn.

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