Officials Discuss Future of Cities with Lawmakers at Committee Hearing in York

YORK – Local officials and community leaders joined members of the Senate and House Urban Affairs and Housing Committees in York today for a joint public hearing examining the challenges facing Pennsylvania’s cities, large and small.

“Several small and mid-sized cities are experiencing severe financial distress due to their tax structure, pension costs, unfunded mandates and other factors that are difficult or even impossible to address at the local level,” said Senate Urban Affairs and Housing Committee Chairman David Argall (R-29). “My goal is to work with municipal officials to determine the best way to address these challenges. We need to give them the tools they need to avoid financial catastrophes and promote a better quality of life for their residents.”

During her testimony before the panel, York Mayor Kim Bracey urged lawmakers to consider meaningful statewide property tax reform, adding that anything other than a complete overhaul of the system would be “like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.”

“Regressive, antiquated, unpredictable, and onerous, school property taxes are the greatest inhibitor to economic and community development in our City of York and many core communities,” Bracey said. “Unchecked spikes in property taxes threaten our city’s momentum and progress.”

Several other testifiers, including representatives from the York County Economic Alliance, cited serious problems with the current property tax structure and urged lawmakers to take action. Senator Argall has already introduced Senate Bill 76, legislation that would completely eliminate the school property tax.

In addition to meaningful property tax reform or elimination, Bracey and other testifiers stressed the need for comprehensive municipal pension reform, improvements to Act 111 arbitrations procedures and new revenue tools to deal with financial pressures that are squeezing city budgets.

The hearing also included testimony from representatives of York College of Pennsylvania, the York County District Attorney’s Office, York Area United Fire & Rescue, York Area Regional Police Department, the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians and the York County Community Foundation.