York City residents have heard most of it before.

Antiquated systems and economic challenges have backed third-class cities into a corner of unfunded pension liabilities, sky-high property taxes, deteriorating infrastructure, tax-exempt properties and costly public-safety services.

It's a message Mayor Kim Bracey delivers on a regular basis in York and across the state.

But, on Thursday, the mayor had a particularly important audience.

Bracey was one of 11 speakers to address the House Urban Affairs and Senate Urban Affairs and Housing committees.

Better yet, she didn't have to drive to Harrisburg.

About a dozen state legislators traveled to York College for the second of three public hearings scheduled to discuss some of Pennsylvania cities' most burdensome challenges. The group will meet Friday, June 21, in Reading.

Three members of the York County delegation -- Sen. Mike Waugh, R-Shrewsbury Township, Rep. Keith Gillespie, R-Springettsbury Township, and Rep. Kevin Schreiber, D-York City -- are also members of the Urban Affairs committees and attended the hearing.

Bracey assured lawmakers York's "professional ethics, management and internal controls are as strong as they can be."


"Consultants, experts and state officials have repeated over and over again that our city government has competent, capable and committed fiscal management," Bracey said in her prepared remarks. "They have all reached the same conclusion: We run as tight of a ship as we can."

However, Bracey said, "systemic constraints and structural deficits" have created a financial crisis in York.

What's needed: She asked for changes to Act 47, a state program designed to rescue cities from financial demise. Of the 21 cities in Act 47, none have ever emerged reformed, Bracey said.

Bracey also urged the panel to consider granting third-class cities "a menu of revenue options," such as an alcohol tax. The mayor asked for property tax reform, especially for schools, based on "moderate increases" in the personal income and sales taxes.

She advocated for reform of Act 111, a state law that gives police and firefighter unions access to binding arbitration -- which, Bracey said, is a main contributor to municipalities' escalating costs.

She urged lawmakers to pass legislation recently proposed by Sen. John Eichelberger, R-Blair County, who is seeking co-sponsors for a bill that would open arbitration hearings to the public and require arbitrators to base decisions on relevant factors explained in public documents.

Waugh praised Bracey for her statewide advocacy, calling her a "leading voice" on Act 111 reform.

"That type of reform is one heck of a challenge in Harrisburg," Waugh said. "We're real close. We just need that extra push."

-- Erin James may also be reached at ejames@yorkdispatch.com.