MAYOR PAPENFUSE ISSUES A STATEMENT UPON THE PASSING OF ACT 47 BILL

October 17, 2018

MAYOR PAPENFUSE ISSUES A STATEMENT UPON THE PASSING OF ACT 47 BILL

Here is a statement from Mayor Eric Papenfuse upon the passing of the Act 47 Bill:

“I would like to thank all those who worked tirelessly over the past year to get this bill passed – especially Senator John DiSanto, Representative Patty Kim, and Representative Greg Rothman. Together, we achieved what many thought was impossible.  While I wish we had been able to achieve a permanent solution for the City and the region, Harrisburg’s immediate fiscal crisis has lifted. I look forward to working with the new members of the Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority – as it’s time to roll up our sleeves and continue to work for the long-term success of Harrisburg and the Capital Region.”

For more information, contact Syeda Tayyeba, Communications Assistant, at [email protected] or call 717 212 7269.

CITY OF HARRISBURG SCORES 81 ON THE HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN MUNICIPAL EQUALITY INDEX

HARRISBURG – The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) published official city scorecards on Monday, October 8, 2018 indicating that the City of Harrisburg scored 81 out of 100 on the Municipal Equality Index (MEI).

The Human Rights campaign consisting of three million members and supporters nationwide is the largest civil rights organization working towards achieving equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) Americans.

Each year, for the last seven years, the HRC MEI examines 506 cities nationwide on 49 different criteria from every state. It evaluates how inclusive municipal laws, policies and services are of the LGBTQ people who live and work there.

Harrisburg’s 2016 HRC MEI score was 68 points out of 100. Harrisburg’s 2017 HRC MEI score was 56 out of 100. This year, Harrisburg scored 81 out of 100, a 25 point increase due to the service of the nine Commissioners of the re-instated Harrisburg Human Relations Commission (HHRC).

The HHRC was reinstated November of 2017, with the appointment of nine commissioners who were confirmed by City Council. These members are:

  1. Commissioner Russell A. Boggs, Chair
  2. Commissioner Gretchen Little, Vice Chair
  3. Commissioner Amanda L. Arbour
  4. Commissioner Theo Braddy
  5. Commissioner Valerie Carelock
  6. Commissioner Amanda Carter
  7. Commissioner Joshua J. Grubbs
  8. Commissioner Kia L. Hansard
  9. Commissioner Christi’an Yellowdy

“I commend the Human Relations Commission and all of our city workers who are helping to improve the quality of life for all of our residents and who are making Harrisburg a more inclusive and welcoming city,” said Mayor Eric Papenfuse.

The 25 point increase is attributed to the following four areas:

  1. Re-instatement of the Harrisburg Human Relations Commission with the appointment of 9 Commissioners in November of 2017
  2. Transgender inclusive healthcare benefits expressly documented in employee benefit manual/book
  3. The City of Harrisburg Police reporting its 2016 Hate Crime Statistics to the FBI
  4. An increase in the City leadership’s commitment to fully include the LGBTQ+ communities in pro-equality Legislative or Policy Efforts

City score cards can be viewed at: https://goo.gl/GXJ8gB

For more information, contact Syeda Tayyeba, Communications Assistant, at [email protected] or call 717 212 7269.

 

##

 

MAYOR PAPENFUSE TO ANNOUNCE DETAILS OF LEAF COLLECTION AT OCT. 10 PRESS CONFERENCE

October 9, 2018

 HARRISBURG – Mayor Eric Papenfuse will hold a press conference at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, October 10, at the MLK City Government Center to announce the details of fall leaf collection.

The City of Harrisburg Public Works Crew will work to make sure the leaves are collected quickly and efficiently.  Capital Region Water will be in close coordination with Public Works to continue street sweeping during leaf collection.

Residents are requested to help by putting leaves in brown paper bags at the curb the night before street sweeping. There is a limited number of free paper leaf bags for residents to pick up at the Public Works Center at 1820 Paxton Street between the hours of 7:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. You can also buy the bags at most hardware and home improvement stores. Plastic bags are not accepted at the composting site.

If you are unable to bag your leaves, you can pile them into the street the night before street sweeping. Please be sure not to block drains. Blocked storm drains can cause puddles or flooding when it rains.

The City will collect leaves between now and Friday December 7, 2018. Please follow the posted street cleaning schedule even if your collection day is a holiday. There will be no leaf collection on holidays.

If you have any questions, please call The City at 311 for leaf collection questions or Capital Region Water at 888-510-0606 for street sweeping questions.

 

Leaf Collection Dos and Don'ts

CITY OF HARRISBURG AND “CAPITAL REBIRTH”  SPONSOR ANTI-BULLYING DAY ON  OCT. 6

Sep 28, 2018 HARRISBURG – The City of Harrisburg and Capital Rebirth will sponsor an “Anti-Bullying Superhero Day” from 3-6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018 at the Skyline Sports Complex on City Island. 

The event is free and open to the public. Children are encouraged to dress up as their favorite superhero and will be able to meet and greet their favorite D.C. and Marvel comic characters.

This event promotes a family-friendly atmosphere consisting of carnival style games, inflatable houses, food trucks, raffles and DJ Caraby. There also will be prizes for the children.

For more information, contact Capital Rebirth at 717-760-9749 or email at [email protected].

##

Mayoral Statement Concerning Special Taxing Authority and Act 47 in the City of Harrisburg

Chairpersons Harper, Keller, O’Neill and Distinguished Committee Members,

I am Eric Papenfuse, Mayor of the City of Harrisburg since 2014. I am here today to testify in support of House Bill 2557. This morning, I would like to emphasize three main points for your consideration: 

  1. First, I will highlight many of the extraordinary achievements that the City and State have accomplished in working together since receivership status was granted for Harrisburg in 2011.
  2. Second, I will make the case for why we should secure and build on those accomplishments by acting now to pass House Bill 2557.
  3. Third, I will show how House Bill 2557 provides both a sustainable future for Harrisburg and a successful exit strategy for the capital City under Act 47

When I took office in 2014, the City of Harrisburg had recently sold or transferred each of its three major assets -the trash-burning incinerator, the parking system, and the water and sewer system. Together, these transactions retired hundreds of millions of dollars in long-term debt for the City and allowed Harrisburg, which had been on the brink of bankruptcy, to begin to repay its debts, rebuild its operational capacity, and invest in its aging and long-neglected infrastructure.

This could not have been accomplished without the assistance of the Commonwealth, and, on behalf of the citizens of Harrisburg, I want to take this opportunity to thank the Legislature, the Governor’s Office, and the Department of Community and Economic Development for your focused attention and dedicated support during Harrisburg’s dire financial crisis.

When the City of Harrisburg entered Act 47 in 2010, there were 569 full-time City employees and that number was already much less than during the decade before. Today, the City has stabilized at a basic level of 425 employees. That number is up slightly from the dark days of 2013, a year everyone retired who could, and the beleaguered City was unable to recruit or fill essential vacancies. But, over the past five years, with the helpful support of the office of the Coordinator, the City has reorganized and found efficiencies wherever it could. Working together, we have effectively right-sized City government. See Exhibit 1.

Under Receivership, new contracts were negotiated with two of the City’s three unions. The Fire Department, however, was a holdout even after Receivership ended in February 2014. One of the most difficult jobs I had to do as a newly elected Mayor was to close a fire station and convince the IAFF to make major concessions regarding health care and staffing levels. Since then, working together with the Commonwealth, we have negotiated new contracts with each of our three bargaining units. These offer modest annual pay increases of 1 or 2%, preserve the necessary concessions achieved under Receivership, set the stage for the establishment this year of an OPEB trust to address long-term healthcare obligations, and, most importantly, provide the City with predictable, sustainable, basic wage growth in future years.

When I took office, the City of Harrisburg had defaulted on its debt obligations. I was presented with over 4.5 million in unpaid bills and handed a budget that was so unbalanced it had been presented to City Council with a 4 million dollar “negative expenditure” or “plug,” which meant we would have to underspend by at least that much in 2014 just to break even. Underspend we did, and every year that I have been in office we have significantly underspent our budget. Strict scrutiny of all purchasing, fundamental reforms to city contracting, and fiscally conservative spending policies have allowed us to build a cash-fund balance, which we are now positioned to use for long-neglected City infrastructure, much needed facility improvements, and essential IT upgrades. Only in 2017 and 2018, with the approval and oversight of the Coordinator’s office, did we begin to draw down significantly on this fund balance. That is why capital spending has increased in recent years, but only in a fiscally responsible way, using cash-on-hand saved through careful budget management. See Exhibit 2.

We remain today a City with extremely high rates of poverty. Nearly half of our population lives at or below the poverty line. We have the largest percentage of tax-exempt property anywhere in the Commonwealth. As a City, more than half of our assessed value cannot be taxed, and over 40% of the property that is not taxed is owned by the Commonwealth. We have a higher ratio of commuters by far than any other major city in Pennsylvania. In fact, as Chamber President and CEO Dave Black will elaborate on in his testimony, more people commute into Harrisburg on a daily basis (approx. 50,533) than the City’s total population as of the last census (49,395).

Property taxes represent the largest single component of the City’s revenue stream. We have a split millage rate for land (30.97) versus buildings (5.16) and a school-tax millage rate of 27.8. Raising property taxes higher is not a feasible option for our severely stressed tax base, which already saw the earned income taxes for City residents double under Receivership. Our City’s school district, which is comprised of the exact same tax base as the City, has affirmed publicly that it expects to continue raising property taxes to the maximum amount allowed by law every year. Likewise, the City’s water and sewer rates have increased dramatically and will continue to rise higher, in order to fund the necessary infrastructure upgrades mandated by a consent decree with the federal government. Most shockingly, City residents already pay one of the highest tipping fees ($190/ton) to dispose of our trash anywhere in the United States – more than double what municipalities in Pennsylvania just outside the City limits have to pay. And this rate also will rise even higher in 2019.

Given these hardships and tough realities, the City chose to petition the Commonwealth Court in 2016 to raise the Local Services Tax paid by individuals who work in Harrisburg but do not necessarily live here. This two-dollars-a-week extra contribution results in about $3.8 million in enhanced revenues each year and offers urgently needed assistance by balancing a structural deficit on the City’s books that was never addressed or fixed in Receivership. This roughly corresponds to the 4-million-dollar “plug” that awaited us when I first took office and fills that gap in a sustainable, balanced way. Former officials hid this structural deficit by engaging in risky and irresponsible borrowing and illegal fund transfers from water and sewer revenues, which finally stopped under state oversight. In fact, I would argue it was this very structural deficit that drove past administrations to propose a money-making incinerator scheme and to enter into ever riskier financial borrowings. The LST today simply allows the City’s revenues to equal its necessary expenditures, without resorting to risky get-rich schemes, illegal fund transfers, or irresponsible accounting tricks. It is a far better and less painful solution for the Capital Region than massive, crippling property tax increases with diminishing returns.

Which brings me to my second theme: why we urgently need the legislature to act now in support of House Bill 2557. As you will hear in testimony today from members of the business community and the Greater Harrisburg Association of Realtors, the threat of a 100% property tax increase – whether now or when Harrisburg eventually exits from Act 47 – understandably causes private investors to remain on the sidelines until there is greater, long-term certainty about the City’s finances. Over the past five years, we’ve slowly begun to grow both the City’s population and its tax base. The pace of this growth could be significantly accelerated with the passage of HB 2557.

As a consequence of our past financial crisis, the City of Harrisburg does not have a credit rating and will not be able to get one unless rating agencies feel comfortable that we have a stable and predictable revenue model. This means we can’t responsibly borrow or refinance several long-term debt obligations that could save taxpayers significant dollars. Being able to restructure a Receivership-era bond insurance settlement liability could save several million dollars in interest over the next decade – but this requires the long-term stability that, in my opinion, only HB 2557 can provide.

Similarly, the uncertainty of ACT 47 makes it difficult for Harrisburg to recruit or retain qualified staff. You can see this most clearly in the Harrisburg Police Department, where the most popular question among young recruits is, “When will the City be out of Act 47?” Why, they ask, should they risk taking a job in a City that already pays significantly less than surrounding municipalities, if the City’s finances are so uncertain? They are willing to build a career in Harrisburg but only if there is a clear exit plan and sustainable financial future for our capital City.

House Bill 2557 works because it doesn’t ask for anything that the City doesn’t already have. In fact, it would cut taxes for workers in the first year by lowering the LST from $156 to $150. It requires mandatory annual reporting of the City’s finances and provides for a review in five years should the City’s financial outlook improve to the point that the elevated Local Services Tax would no longer be essential. HB 2557 responsibly provides for the long-term funding of an OPEB Trust, positioning the City to meet its obligations for retirees’ healthcare. As the City grows, excess revenue beyond the current­year general fund obligation would go into the trust and, once it is funded to 85% of the actuarial liability, Harrisburg’s extra taxing authority would sunset.

House Bill 2557 is fair, responsible, and frankly a much better choice for the Capital Region than the enactment of a commuter tax, even if that might have greater short-term benefits for the City. This bill prevents the City from ever enacting a commuter tax as part of an exit plan from Act 47.

Finally, I promised to show how House Bi/12557 would put Harrisburg on a sustainable path for the future. Projecting only 1% revenue growth and a 3% inflation of yearly expenses, including our mandatory obligations and modest collectively-bargained wage increases, the City currently has enough in cash reserves to ensure balanced budgets for the next seven years with the enactment of House Bill 2557. That projection allows for 3 million a year to be spent on necessary capital projects, which honestly is the bare minimum required to address essential IT upgrades and the most urgent transportation infrastructure needs. See Exhibit 3.

It is my sincere belief that this long-term projection for Harrisburg, which assumes the retention of its taxing authority as provided by HB 2557, is fiscally conservative. Once granted a credit rating and allowed to refinance or restructure significant portions of our long-term debt, Harrisburg could have an even brighter future. Increased economic development, after the cloud of Act 47 has lifted, could provide valuable new revenues to maintain our aging roads, repair our structurally deficient bridges, and address the challenges of the Dock Street Dam.

Today, you can ensure the future success of the Harrisburg region, if the Legislature will continue to work together with the City, our workers, our residents, the business community, and state leaders to advance reasonable, common-sense solutions like those offered by HB 2557. Thank you for taking the time to call this hearing and your willingness to study the details of Harrisburg’s financial situation. I am eager to answer any questions you may have and to provide you with any information you may need to assist you in evaluating the proposed legislation, which is so important to the health and future of the City of Harrisburg. 

-Mayor Eric Papenfuse

 

MAYOR PAPENFUSE OPENS EXHIBIT OF PUERTO RICAN ARTIST AT MLK GOVERNMENT CENTER TO CELEBRATE HISPANIC HERITAGE MONTH

Sept. 11, 2018 HARRISBURG – Mayor Papenfuse will join Latino community leaders at the MLK Government Center, 10 N. Second St., at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018, to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month at a reception to open the exhibition of a Puerto Rican painter who is  moving to Harrisburg.

 

Raul Cruz, an acclaimed artist, has decided to move to Harrisburg as conditions remain dire in his native Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria last year. Cruz is being welcomed by family members who are residents of the City.

 

The event is being sponsored the Art Association of Harrisburg, the Latino Hispanic Community Center and the World Affairs Council of Harrisburg.

 

Cruz’s painting will be on display throughout the month at the MLK Government Center.

 

For more information, contact Joyce M. Davis, Director of Communications, at [email protected].

 

##

FIVE HARRISBURG FIREFIGHTERS DEPLOYED TO SOUTH CAROLINA AS CITY OFFICIALS CLOSELY MONITOR WEATHER CONDITIONS

Sept. 11, 2018 Harrisburg, PA – Five Harrisburg firefighters are being sent to South Carolina to assist with emergency responses to Hurricane Florence, which is expected to hit the Carolina coasts within the next few days.

Meanwhile, Mayor Eric Papenfuse and City officials are closely monitoring weather conditions in connection with the Category 4 hurricane but see no cause for alarm in the forecast for our region.

“Our emergency management staff is on guard and watching the forecast on an hourly basis,” said Mayor Papenfuse. “There is the potential for significant rainfall on ground already saturated from summer rain, and we will keep residents informed of any developments that would impact public safety.”

Fire Chief Brian Enterline says the Susquehanna River is expected to crest early Wednesday at 14 ½ feet, “but  the forecasts now call for the water to begin receding on Thursday.”

“Even as we expect minimal impact in our region from Hurricane Florence,” said Enterline, “we are proud to be able to send some of our best people to help the Carolinas battle what looks like a very powerful storm.”

For more information, contact Joyce M. Davis, Director of Communications, at [email protected].

 

##

HISTORIC HARRISBURG ASSOCIATION HONORS MARY SACHS  IN CEREMONIES AT NOON TODAY

Sept. 6, 2018, Harrisburg — Living relatives of Mary Sachs will join with leaders of Historic Harrisburg Association and city officials to commemorate the centennial of the opening of Harrisburg’s legendary Mary Sachs Store on Sept. 6, 1918. 

Location: Capitol Park, at Third and Locust Streets, with the Mary Sachs store as the backdrop.

Ms. Sachs’ impact on Harrisburg was trifold:  She brought world-class fashion and an international following; her elegant store on Third Street opposite Capitol Park helped establish Downtown Harrisburg as a center of commerce and culture; her generous philanthropy – a godsend to the needy and an inspiration to those who were well off – lives on today through the Mary Sachs Charitable Trust. 

The ceremony will feature brief remarks from two great nephews who worked in the store (22 departments, 200 employees) as teenagers.  Young ladies will model heirloom Mary Sachs dresses on loan from their original owners. 

The noon ceremony precedes a 5 p.m. opening reception for the new exhibit “Harrisburg’s Merchant Heritage and the Legacy of Mary Sachs” at Historic Harrisburg Resource Center, 1230 N. Third Street. 

News media may visit earlier in the day to get video of the exhibit or come during the opening reception.

For more information:

David J. Morrison

Executive Director

Historic Harrisburg Association

1230 North Third Street

Harrisburg, PA 17102

717-574-5370 (cell)

717-233-4646 (office)

[email protected]

www.HistoricHarrisburg.com

 

##

MAYOR PAPENFUSE LEADS PRESS CONFERENCE ON THURSDAY TO ANNOUNCE PLAYGROUND IMPROVEMENTS

Sept. 5, 2018, Harrisburg, PA  – Mayor Eric Papenfuse will lead a press briefing at 2 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 6, 2018, at Cloverly Heights Playground, 1204 Rolleston St., to announce the renovation of five playgrounds in the City of Harrisburg.

Mayor Papenfuse will be joined by Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Deputy Secretary Lauren Imgrund, as well as officials with Capital Region Water and Impact Harrisburg, which provided funds and resources for the renovations.

The collaboration among the agencies resulted in improvements to playgrounds at Cloverly Heights, Royal Terrace, Penn, and Sayford Streets; Norwood and Holly Streets; and Fourth and Dauphin Streets.

DCNR, the City of Harrisburg, Impact Harrisburg and Capital Region Water formed a partnership in 2017 to renovate the playgrounds.

For more information, contact Joyce M. Davis, Director of Communications, at [email protected] or call 717 255 3015.

##

MAYOR PAPENFUSE TO ANNOUNCE DETAILS OF THE 102ND KIPONA FESTIVAL AT AUG. 29 PRESS CONFERENCE

August 24, 2018 Harrisburg, PA – Mayor Eric Papenfuse will hold a press conference at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, August 29, at the MLK City Government Center to announce plans for the Kipona Festival that will be held September 1-3 on Riverfront Park and City Island.

“This will be an exciting event,” said Mayor Papenfuse, “and we are expecting large crowds from Harrisburg and its surrounding regions to join us for what promises to be an incredible 102nd Kipona Celebration.” 

“I especially want to thank our title sponsor, Visit Hershey Harrisburg, and our Gold Sponsors – the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency and UPMC Pinnacle,” Mayor Papenfuse said. “Without their support, we would not be able to organize such a great festival.”

This year’s event will feature returning attractions such as the Native American Pow Wow, Festival of India and canoe races. Back by popular demand are the Biergarten featuring Zeroday and The Millworks, Crab Cake Eating Contest, Doggie Rest Stop, Rubber Duck Race to benefit Making Strides Against Breast Cancer and an Artist Village with more than 30 local and national vendors with handmade arts and crafts. The Wirewalkers will also be returning with dramatic tightwire walks over the Susquehanna River. More than 120 vendors will be on hand and will offer handcrafted goods, shopping and food.  

Additional new activities slated for the Festival include a free Zombie Virus Mobile Escape Room on Saturday & Sunday where groups of 4-8 people can work together to find clues, solve puzzles and crack codes before time runs out. The Zombie Virus Mobile Escape Room is presented by Harrisburg Escape Rooms and is a completely interactive and immersive experience – with a live Zombie! The wirewalkers will feature a new illuminated tightwire walk over the Susquehanna River in the dark on Saturday evening at 8:15 p.m. Following the wirewalkers, there will be a free outdoor movie under the starts featuring Disney’s Coco, presented by the Midtown Cinema.

Fireworks will be held on Sunday, September 2 at approximately 8:15 p.m.

With more than 30 bands in three performance areas along Riverfront Park, there will be non-stop live entertainment. The Children’s Festival will feature a children’s stage with performances by Gamut Theatre’s Popcorn Hat Players, Harrisburg Improv, the Maniacz dance group and a story hour with book readings by two local authors, Patti Tingen and Julia Mallory.

Street parking on Sunday, September 2 and Monday, September 3 will be free. Parking on City Island will be $5. SP Plus will provide $10 special event parking in the Market Square garage from 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.  Four hours of free street parking on Saturday, September 1 will be available using the code “LUVHBG” in the ParkMobile App.

Special thanks to all of our sponsors including Visit Hershey Harrisburg, ExploreHBG, Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency, UMPC Pinnacle, Belco Community Credit Union, Deloitte, Harrisburg Downtown Improvement District and Green Mountain Energy.

For more information, contact Joyce Davis, Director of Communications, at [email protected] or call 717-255-3015.

###