While the final version of Harrisburg's financial recovery plan, released Friday, made no changes that addresses the incinerator-related debt that triggered its financial crisis, it made several adjustments regarding the structural deficit of Pennsylvania's capital city.
The plan, now 508 pages and written by Novak Consulting Group of Cincinnati, withdraws the requirements to implement a single tax rate and to merge the mayor's and City Council offices.
Plan coordinator Julia Novak was scheduled to meet separately on Friday with Mayor Linda Thompson and the council.
Novak's first plan, issued last month, said the city's structural deficit could balloon to $3.5 million this year and that Harrisburg could run out of money in September.
The plan was commissioned as part of the city's enrollment in the state's Act 47 program for municipalities in financial distress.
Harrisburg, with about 48,000 residents, is struggling under the weight of debt it guaranteed for its incinerator project, which fell short of financial expectations. Bonds outstanding on the incinerator total $220 million.
The city also owes a combined $75.5 million to Dauphin County, bond insurer Assured Guaranty Municipal Corp., and the incinerator's operator, the Harrisburg Authority.
The plan recommended selling or leasing the incinerator and other holdings such as parking garages.
The Act 47 final report also removed the requirement to implement a 10-year tax abatement strategy and instead suggest that the strategy be evaluated, and stressed the importance of improving collections on the city's revolving loan fund.
In addition, the new draft articulated Novak Consulting's support for the forensic audit the Harrisburg Authority is conducting.
It also removed the requirement to provide recreation services through a nonprofit partnership and instead required further study of thes option, while decreasing the department's budget.
Novak removed the requirement to close a single fire station, but mandated evaluating the move in the context of changing deployment to include four firefighters per engine; it also clarified that post-retirement health care benefits are eliminated for future employees of the city.
The new plan also added a requirement for out-of-county landlords to have a local agent help improve interaction between the city and property owners as code violations are identified, and added a requirement for the city to allow for weekly bulk-waste removal in the community.
The City Council has scheduled a special legislation session for 6 p.m. July 19, at which it may act on the plan. The council has 25 days from its June 28 public hearing to act on the revised plan.
Because the deadline in the case falls on a Saturday, the revised plan must be acted upon by Monday, July 25, according to the state's Department of Community and Economic Development.
"There are not an awful lot of meaningful changes," said Alan Schankel, a managing director at Janney Capital Markets in Philadelphia, referring to the latest plan.
"If there's one change I'm disappointed in, it's not requiring the mayor and City Council to share staff. That's not so much about saving money as it is from a psychological perspective, the need for better cooperation."
Schankel, speaking in an interview on Friday, said such plans usually include some selling points to get various parties all on the same page.
State, regional and municipal officials have frequently been at loggerheads in the Harrisburg area.
"You start with the X's and the O's; that's the basis of a really credible plan," Schankel said. "This plan has lots of detail, though it still needs work.
"The X's and O's part is about 80%, but you have to wrap it with some selling."