State budget impasse could impact Harrisburg services

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – As the state legislature enters its third month without an approved budget, Harrisburg City officials are getting anxious the drought could run payroll cash flow dry.

Various portraits of the state Capitol dangle inside Harrisburg’s city hall, ironic as the budget stalemate have left city finances hanging in the balance.

Harrisburg Finance Director Bruce Weber is starting to get nervous.

“We’ve never had so much money directly tied to the state budgetary appropriations process,” he said. “So, this is new to us, as well.”

Since the approval of the Harrisburg Strong recovery plan, the city relies heavily on a $5 million budget allocation to pay for fire protection services. That lump is broken down by a $4.5 million Department of Economic Development allocation and $500,000 for fire protection for the Capitol Complex. Harrisburg’s former state-appointed receiver, William Lynch, inked the funding as a flex spending to bridge gaps in the city’s fiscal budget.

In short, without the $500,000 state allocation, Harrisburg’s cash flow could run dry.

“That’s a large percentage of our budget,” Weber said. “If we don’t receive that money within a timely fashion, we could have some cash flow problems by the end of November beginning of December.”

There’s a fine line between alarmist and reality. The worst-case scenario could be an impact to essential city services if city employees refuse to work without pay.

“I would have to assume that city employees would continue to work as necessary to provide the services that residents expect,” he said.

Given that it is only September 1, there is time for officials to devise an emergency plan, which they are actively pursuing. However, that could mean Harrisburg would be forced to borrow more money, which is something a recovering city attempts to avoid.

The budget stalemate is also holding up Redevelopment Capitol Assistance Program funding. Harrisburg submitted an application for its Mulder-Square Allison Hill revitalization project, which has been delayed pending approval.

As Capitol lithographs adorn the walls of city hall, Harrisburg’s problems are quite literally starring them in the face. That is why Weber implores lawmakers to find a compromise to benefit all Pennsylvania residents, including the hometown people.

“I just ask that they do their jobs and pass a budget in a timely fashion,” he said.

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