Harrisburg’s 2017 budget is balanced, calls for more police, infrastructure upgrades

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Mayor Eric Papenfuse will present his 2017 budget to City Council Tuesday evening, with one big surprise.

Budget season for the city has been a point of heated debates and fervor between the mayor’s office and the council. Harrisburg’s director of budget and finance, Bruce Weber, said there should be only positive conversation this time around because the 2017 $65 million budget is balanced.

Weber agreed to speak with ABC27 News ahead of the 6 p.m. budget presentation Tuesday on the grounds that only highlights would be discussed.

Not only is the operating expenses balanced, but there was enough surplus this year to put into the Capital Improvement Fund.

“We’ve decided this year to finally use that surplus to reinvest in improving the city’s physical and technological infrastructure,” he said.

Some of those reserve funds would go toward upgrading the city’s IT system and fixing a longtime issue of a leaky roof.

“You can literally see the remnants of having a leaky ceiling, and that’s just down here,”he said. “If you have offices on the fourth floor, anytime it rains or snows you really do cross your fingers and hope that precipitation doesn’t come into your workspace.”

Weber pointed to erosion in the floor stemming from the leaky atrium roof in the City Government Center.

Third Street repaving, which has already been announced, is another improvement that will be funded through reserve funds among others. More projects will be outlined during the budget presentation.

Weber said some added funds would go toward the hiring of more police officers, which has proved to be a challenge to recruit talent.

“In theory, we have about 19 open positions that we’re looking to hire,” he said, “so hopefully, we’ll have a good class in January and June to reach the capacity that we need.”

Council voted to increase landlord inspection fees from $200 to $400. Weber said the money will go toward hiring more codes enforcement officers to help combat blight and unpaid taxes.

But, there will be no calls for citywide tax hikes.

Weber knows the presentation is only the first step and that council members may question a few decisions or wants, but those interactions he believes should be constructive, unlike previous budget meetings.

“Council may think differently, and that’s OK,” he said. “It’s good to have that conversation.”

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