Friday, December 19, 2014

Harrisburg receiver: Sell city assets, cut budget, pay bonds

Unkovic endorses steps the state already recommended and the city council has resisted to pay Harrisburg's outsize debt

Harrisburg receiver: Sell city assets, cut budget, pay bonds

David Unkovic, the bond lawyer appointed by Gov. Tom Corbett's administration to reorganize Harrisburg's finances after the state capital city tried to file for bankruptcy protection, has issued this report on steps needed to keep the cash flowing from city coffers to bondholders.

The problem is worse than debt, Unkovic writes. So much Harrisburg property is controlled by the state or nonprofits that what's left does not produce enough taxes to fund city government and schools. Dauphin County should consider other taxes besides property taxes to fund Harrisburg government functions, he urges. He also calls for less-restrictive labor union contracts and privatizing services. 

Unkovic also notes the recent Harrisburg Authority forensic audit raises the possibility money could be recovered from some of the people who left Harrisburg broke. But it's too early to predict how much that could be, he notes.

Other highlights:

- the Harrisburg Authority and Harrisburg Parking Authority should look into selling or leasing city parking garages and the trash incinerator that got the city into this $300 million mess

- the Harrisburg Authority should also try to hire an outside firm to run the water, sewage and drainage systems

- Harrisburg should hire a fulltime Chief Operating Officer (apparently the Mayor, Manager, Treasurer, Receiver aren't enough)

- Balance the budget

- Sell assets, cut personnel and expenses, as the state has already recommended

Commonwealth Court "must conduct a hearing on the recovery plan within 30 days of receipt of the receiver’s plan and confirm a plan within 60 days of receipt." The mayor, city council president, governor, and Dauphin County commissioners will appoint an advisory committee to confirm the plan.

"For more information on Act 47, or to download a copy of the Receiver’s financial recovery plan, visit pa.gov/harrisburgreceiver or call 717-231-5558."

 

Joseph N. DiStefano
About this blog

PhillyDeals posts raw drafts and updates of Joseph N. DiStefano's columns and stories about Philly-area finance, investment, commercial real estate, tech, hiring and public spending, which he's been writing since 1989, mostly for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

DiStefano studied economics, history and a little engineering at Penn, taught writing at St. Joe's, and has written the book Comcasted, more than a thousand columns, and thousands of articles, and raised six children with his wife, who is a saint.

Reach Joseph N. at JoeD@phillynews.com or 215 854 5194.

Joseph N. DiStefano
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