As she has in years past, Lebanon city Mayor Sherry Capello stuck to bread and butter issues in her annual State of the City Address, which she delivered to a packed house on March 28 at Hebron Banquet Hall.

The mayor’s optimistic, hour-long review of the past year was sponsored by the Community of Lebanon Association and Buzgon Davis, a local law firm. It was attended by scores of public officials, business persons, and community leaders, who enjoyed a pre-speech buffet lunch.


“Part I” crimes even or down

“Part 1” crimes are crimes against persons and crimes against property.

Capello reported that crimes against persons, such as homicide, rape, robbery, and assault, increased in 2023 by 15 incidents, or 12% over 2022. Even so, the mayor said the total was still the third lowest number since the city began tracking the statistic 26 years ago.

The number of crimes against property in 2023, such as burglary, theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson, were the second lowest in the city’s statistical history, 9% below 2022, while 2023 saw the lowest number of burglaries since statistics have been kept.

Overall, Capello said there were 27 fewer serious criminal incidents in 2023 than the prior year, a 5% decrease.

Compared to 20 years ago, the mayor said that serious crime in the city has steadily dropped by almost 57%, a continuation of what Capello called “a consistent trend over the years.”

Chart shows serious crimes in Lebanon over the last 20 years. (City of Lebanon)

There were six homicides in the city in 2023, all solved, up from two in 2022: a neighbor dispute, an argument between two acquaintances, a murder suicide, and a triple homicide that “is the result of an undetermined dispute.” Three suspects have been arrested in the triple homicide and are awaiting trial.

Capello said the city has been tracking two types of gun violence since 2010, her first year in office: incidents where persons are injured by guns or where guns are used in the commission of a crime, and random gunfire, where criminal intent can’t be established and there is no clear victim.

In 2023, there were 11 criminal gunfire incidents and eight random incidents. City police investigations revealed that at least 10 of those incidents were the work of “three groups” she did not identify. Capello added that “in all instances with the exception of the triple homicide, all victims were targeted. That is important, because they are not random acts of violence on uninvolved people.”

Chart shows gun violence incidents in Lebanon since 2010. (City of Lebanon)

Of the 112 assaults occurring in 2023, 40, or 36%, were domestic violence-related, the mayor reported. “This is the same percentage as [2022]”, she said. “These two years represent our lowest percentages for this type of assault in the last decade. The number of domestic violence cases in the city has been slowly trending downward since 2011.”

“Part II” crimes up in 2023

“Part II” crimes include forgery, embezzlement, vandalism, criminal mischief, sex offenses, DUI, drug abuse, and disorderly conduct.

According to the mayor, there were 815 Part II crimes in 2023, an increase of 52 incidents or 6.8% over 2022. The increase was mostly due to increases in DUI, and drug and alcohol-related incidents. Disorderly conduct, criminal mischief, and fraud all decreased in 2023. Overall, the mayor said, “Part II crime has greatly decreased in the past 20 years.”

Summarizing the city’s crime-fighting efforts in 2023, Capello said, “We continue to assess our interactions with community members. 753 arrests were made in 2023, compared to 597 in 2022. There were 45 times during these arrest situations where we had to use force to make an arrest, detain a suspect, or to protect an officer or a third party.

“Reviewing use of force reports, which include use of hands on a person, I think a reasonable person could determine from our statistics that the city typically uses the least amount of force necessary as per our use of force policy.”

Three complaints against officers were filed in 2023, the mayor added. Internal investigations were conducted in each, and all were determined to be unfounded. Over the last six years, the number has ranged from 0 to 3.

Last year, Capello said the city’s police department was awarded an $817,000 grant that it used to buy software, a hidden camera system, in-car camera replacements, mobile license plate readers, retention and recruitment bonuses, and computer system upgrades, and to hire a custodian for evidence handling.

The police department’s 2024 goals include implementing electronic citations and a new report management system, continuing efforts to recruit and retain officers, and an improved evidence storage system.

Capello said that the city took the Crimewatch online in 2023. The service “links the police department, media, private business, and the public by distributing sensitive criminal information … and provides organized channels for the public to safely submit information.”

Fire calls

The mayor reported there were 1762 calls for fire services in 2023, “the highest number of calls in our history.” This represents 262 more calls than 2022, a 17.5 % increase.

“The good news,” she said, “is that the increase was not due to fires, but rather false alarms, mutual aid to other municipalities, and rescue and emergency services.”

42% of the calls were false alarms, about 18% for rescue and emergency services, and about 17% for hazardous condition such as traffic accident clean-ups and gas leaks.

There were 92 fires in 2023, 18 fewer than 2022. Actual fires represented only about 5% of calls, Capello said – 22 of those were for structure fires, half of which were cooking fires.

The city has the only career (paid)/volunteer fire department in the county. The Union, Rescue Hose, and Chemical fire companies are in the process of apparatus updates and replacements, either self-funded or through American Rescue Plan money from the city.

Property maintenance, code enforcement, food safety

Capello said the number of new property maintenance cases decreased slightly in 2023. 43% were “nuisance issues such as rubbish, garbage, weeds, and dog feces. “This is lower than previous years,” Capello noted. “We are hopeful this is an indication of progress.”

Capello said the number of condemned buildings has consistently been around 110, or about 1% of the city’s total housing units. “This is low compared to other cities. Last year, we condemned 72 units due to no utilities,” she said.

“Usually, condemnations are spilt evenly between interior conditions and utility shut-offs, however, in 2023, the number of utility shut-offs exploded due to the city’s follow-up with the water and sewer authority.”

The mayor said “our goal is to reduce not only the number of condemned properties in the city, but also the length of time a property is listed as condemned. … Many condemnations were lifted, and we ended [2023] at 108.”

The number of non-compliant food safety and restaurant inspections decreased from 15 to five in 2023. According to Capello, “one contributing factor for the fewer failed inspections is that all facilities that failed an annual inspection in 2022 were increased to a quarterly inspection basis in 2023.”

The city also doubled the number of opening and pre-opening inspections of food dispensing establishments in 2023.


Capello reported that “more than $12 million has been invested in the resurfacing of city streets over the last 16 years. There has been a significant increase in resurfacing over the last three years due to the 422/72 [Cumberland/Walnut/9th/10th streets] resurfacing project and the use of ARPA funding for paving projects in 2023.”

Capello said that the next major street to be resurfaced will be Cumberland Street (Route 422 westbound) from 5th Avenue to 16th Street, starting in June and expected to be completed by October.

Cumberland Street repaving from 5th Avenue east to the city line and beyond is expected to take place in 2025.

Looking to the future of the its streets, the mayor noted that the city is in the early stages of using new software to assess the condition of streets and that it “will have a significant positive impact on planning resurfacing projects and other work orders.

That software is already generating useful data. “Automatic road assessments can be done with a smartphone, anytime, anywhere. About 88 of the 94 miles of streets have been mapped and rated on their level of condition.”

The mayor claimed that, according to the new software, “more than half our streets are in ‘great’ condition and 22% are ‘good,’ representing 73% of all of our streets. 33% are ‘moderate to severe.’ This gives us a good starting point to measure our progress moving forward.”

Finances & taxes

Capello noted that her administration “has addressed the significant deficits that the city was experiencing before I took office in 2010. Up until 2021, the city had to issue tax and revenue anticipation notes” to provide temporary operating money early in the year before property tax revenue started coming in.

Chart shows Lebanon’s budget deficits and surpluses since 2007. (City of Lebanon)

“In 2022 and 2023, we did not need to issue this short-term borrowing because of our increased carryover amount,” a reference to the budget surpluses the city has enjoyed for the past few years.

“Two years ago, we issued a 30-year bond to help finance the City Hall project, and it was determined during the bond issuance process that our bond rating was ‘A-Stable,’ the highest or best rating out of any [Pennsylvania] 3rd class city.”

According to the latest audit, the city’s long-term obligations have decreased by $2.3 million, mainly due to a decrease in the city’s pension and post-employment liability, on the assumption that the assets in those plans will earn a higher rate of return in the future.

None of the city’s pension plans are considered distressed, the mayor said. Those plans suffered an $8.1 million loss in 2022, due to a 19% decrease in the stock market. However, the mayor notes that the plans “almost fully recovered throughout 2023 to their pre-2022 levels,” as a result of the stock market’s recovery.

And, property taxes haven’t gone up. “We can proudly report that we have not had to raise taxes for nine straight years,” Capello said. “Lebanon and Hermitage City in Mercer County are the only two cities in the state that have not raised real estate taxes in the last nine years.

“We can be proud of our efforts to keep real estate taxes low while still completing major projects and providing appropriate services to our residents.”

Lebanon is no different from other aging industrial cities, however.

Capello reported that “the [2023] median household income increased by $5,000 to over $47,000, but that amount is still significantly lower than the county and state.

But, “our percentage of persons below 100% poverty level decreased by 2% to about 23% of our population. The percentage of households receiving food stamps or SNAP benefits also decreased by more than 2% to a little more than 30%. These are positives for our community.”

Additionally, “the percentage of owner-occupied [housing] units has continued to increase for the last six years. The latest American Community Survey indicates the percentage increased [in 2023] by almost 3% to 47%.

The mayor conceded that there is still a shortage of housing in the city among all income levels and said the city will focus on the problem in 2024.

Summing up

Capello emphasized the decrease in serious crime in the city, her administration’s success in solidifying the city’s financial condition and creditworthiness, and the completion of major improvement projects without raising taxes.

“With that being said, I am pleased to report that the state of the city continues to be strong and promising. Looking back on 14 years, we have made a positive impact on the health of our city in many areas. We acknowledge that we have work to do in some areas, especially with our housing shortage.

“We will continue to work to improve our city. … Lebanon is a great place to grow your business, grow your education, grow your family, and grow your community.”

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Chris Coyle writes primarily on government, the courts, and business. He retired as an attorney at the end of 2018, after concentrating for nearly four decades on civil and criminal litigation and trials. A career highlight was successfully defending a retired Pennsylvania state trooper who was accused,...


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