Pennsylvania’s beleaguered capital received some positive news when the Harrisburg Parking Authority agreed to help the struggling city make general obligation payments due next week with a loan package.
The authority, an independent agency, plans a formal vote on Monday, one night before the City Council plans a re-vote on a financial recovery plan.
Proceeds of the $10 million loan would infuse the city with $7.4 million upfront through a 10-year lease extension for three city garages.
The council could vote on the garage deal separately from the financial plan.
Council approval Tueday night would enable the HPA to wire the funds to the city in time to meet Wednesday’s deadline to make two GO bond payments worth a combined $3.3 million. Harrisburg must also meet a mid-September payroll. City Controller Dan Miller said last week that Harrisburg has but $600,000 remaining.
HPA vice president Corky Goldstein said the $10 million would leave the authority with enough money to renovate the Walnut Street garage downtown and settle a lawsuit with Harrisburg University. It would also get the city through the end of the year, Goldstein said.
“The parking authority would rather not take on new debt, but for the sake of the city, we have to do what we have to do,” Goldstein, a local attorney, said in an interview late Wednesday afternoon. “We don’t know what the rate will be.”
The authority will name its underwriters on Monday night, Goldstein said.
Mayor Linda Thompson had scheduled a press conference for later Wednesday.
The council has earmarked Tuesday for its third vote on a recovery plan under the state’s Act 47 program for distressed communities. Rejection of the plan could mean a state takeover of the city. The council has twice rejected the plan, by identical 4-to-3 votes, most recently on Aug. 31.
Thompson had submitted her slightly different version after the council on July 19 turned down the proposal by a state-appointed consultant.
Harrisburg owes about $310 million related to an incinerator retrofit project. That amount includes bonds, interest payments and legal fees due to surrounding Dauphin County; the Harrisburg Authority, which runs the incinerator, and the bond insurer, Assured Guaranty Municipal Corp.
Novak Consulting Group, the original Act 47 coordinator, predicted that the city would run out of money in September.
Thompson, now the Act 47 coordinator by law, must sway at least one council member to her side. Martin-Roberts, Patty Kim, and Kelly Summerford have twice voted for the plan. Opposing it both times were Brad Koplinski, Wanda Williams, Susan Brown-Wilson, and Eugenia Smith.
Thompson’s plan would call for the county, the bond insurer and the state to cover the estimated $26 million in debt stranded after selling the incinerator and leasing the garages. Lacking that, she would ask a county court to impose a commuter tax of 2.2% to 2.5%.
“The majority on the council have been pretty solid and strong together, so my gut reaction is I don’t think the votes are going to change, but why not? Let’s give them one more chance to see,” Kim said.
Martin-Roberts had considered a re-vote in July, but dropped the idea when she was convinced she didn’t have the votes.
Smith said nothing amid heated debate at last week’s meeting, prompting speculation over whether she could cast a changing swing vote.