A Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania judge has delayed her order compelling the City Council in Harrisburg to double its earned-income tax.
“The parties indicated that they wish to engage in a dialogue in an effort to forge a cooperative approach for addressing the challenging financial issues facing the city,” Judge Bonnie Brigance Leadbetter wrote Thursday in approving a motion for reconsideration.
She is scheduled to hear oral arguments on Oct. 4. Briefs supporting the motion for reconsideration are due Sept. 19, with opposing briefs due Sept. 26.
Leadbetter on Thursday held a conference call, which included state-appointed receiver William Lynch, City Council attorney Neil Grover and representatives of Mayor Linda Thompson. Had she not granted the motion for delay, the City Council would have been under an 11th-hour deadline at Tuesday’s legislative meeting to pass the tax increase or risk a contempt of court charge.
“The matter is with the [city] attorney. No comment at this time,” said Thompson spokesman Robert Philbin.
The judge on Aug. 27 approved state-appointed receiver William Lynch’s motion to force the council to raise the tax to 2% from 1% as part of the city’s financial recovery plan. She is believed to be the first Pennsylvania judge to issue an order demanding an elected body to impose a tax increase against its desires.
“We remain steadfast in implementing all the initiatives in the recovery plan but also wish to foster a more cooperative environment for implementing the plan,” Lynch spokesman Cory Angell said.
Most members of the seven-member council oppose the tax hike, citing two tax increases earlier this year.
Leadbetter also said she would reconsider her Aug. 7 order limiting City Council legal fees to $7,500 and only for defense against the tax order, known legally as a writ of mandamus.
Harrisburg is more than $320 million in debt due to cost overruns on an incinerator retrofit project. The city has two general obligation bond payments totaling $3.4 million due Sept. 15.