- Pennsylvania Among 'Terrible 10' Most Regressive Tax States
- February 4 Non-Partisan Training: HOW TO RUN FOR ELECTION BOARD IN 2013: HOW TO RUN FOR COMMITTEEPERSON IN 2014
- Republican Governors Opt-In to Medicaid Expansion
- The Reports of Unions' Death Are Greatly Exaggerated
- Ask Allyson Schwartz to run for Governor
- Mind the gap: Opting Out of Medicaid Expansion Leaves Low-income Families Behind
- Jan. 14 Workshop:HOW TO RUN FOR ELECTION BOARD IN 2013; HOW TO RUN FOR COMMITTEEPERSON IN 2014
- Seth Williams on Guns, Jasmine Rivera on School Closures @PFC Meetup Wednesday
- PA Revenue Strong Midway Through Year; Tax Cut Could Have Big Impact
- What to Make of the Fiscal Cliff Deal?
Mayor Nutter and City Council: Before your budget destroys so much, I have a few questions
First, the sad, sad news:
Mayor Nutter will announce drastic new steps today to close a $1 billion gap in the city's five-year budget, including the closure of 11 of 54 branch libraries and dozens of city pools, a freeze on tax reductions, reduced hours or programs at more than a dozen recreation centers, and fewer engines at some firehouses, according to sources familiar with his plans.
Until now, Nutter had estimated the budget gap at up to $850 million. "At $850 million, it continues to grow," he said last night.
To address the even bigger figure, scheduled city-funded cuts in the business and wage taxes will be frozen until fiscal 2015, although wage-tax relief from state casino revenue will be unaffected, said sources who spoke on condition of anonymity because Nutter "embargoed" the information until today. Layoffs are anticipated.
All city departments will be hit, and some, including the Free Library, the Department of Recreation, and the Fairmount Park Commission, are in line for 20 percent budget reductions, the sources said. Mechanical pickup of leaves will end, forcing homeowners to bag leaves, but that change is not expected immediately. Free bulk-trash pickup, including refrigerators and other appliances, will end. Many side streets will go unplowed unless at least 12 inches of snow is on the ground.
Less libraries. Less places for kids to stay off the streets. Huge reductions for Fairmount Park.
Welcome to Philadelphia.
So, before City Council and the Mayor gut these programs, there are some questions I would like to know about the budget. (If the media gets through the security guards, maybe they can ask him?)
1) How realistic are the economic projections for the five years the budget is based on? Bill Green and others asked, when we passed a sugary sweet budget just months ago, why we weren't taking into account the slowing economy. Well, is the reverse happening now? In our budget, are we assuming that the economy will not recover in the next five years?
2) Does the budget take into effect the likely aid that is coming from our President-elect? Reports indicate that- even potentially before Obama takes office- there will be an economic stimulus plan that includes direct aid to states and to cities. Before we shutter all these libraries, shouldn't we make sure that the aid we will get will not significantly reduce these deficits?
3) Why is patronage taking precedence over libraries? How much money can we save, for example, by eliminating row offices like the City Commissioners? We will have more soon on the failure of the City Commissioners office in this election, but can someone honestly tell me, as we look for 'fat' in City Government, why we still pay three elected officials to do a job they are ill-suited to do?
I am not suggesting laying off Commissioner Office staff, but, how much money can we save, right away, by replacing the top levels of that office with a single administrator, who is an expert and who answers directly to the Mayor? If it takes a charter change to do it, why not ask Philadelphians what they think? (I am pretty sure if the choice was a better run office, with less budget cuts, versus the current system which screwed countless people on Tuesday, the answer would be clear.)
Or, why do we need an elected Sheriff, who has chronically mismanaged the funds of his office?
4) I know taxes are evil and all that, so I will not ask about them.
5) How does this effect upcoming union contracts? If the unions were made to take one-year contracts when times were OK, should they be able to get one-year contracts when the budget is at an all-time low? What does this budget assume about their contracts?
6) How much money would be saved by folding the Redevelopment Authority into the Office of Housing and Community Development? Mayor Street started a housing agency consolidation to save the City some money. How is that working out? How come we don't take the final step, and put the RDA back into City government, too?
Those are just a few questions that, before the City destroys libraries and rec centers, might be worth asking.