Mayor John Street's $3.4 billion budget proposal for the 2006 fiscal year includes no major new initiatives -- a marked deviation from previous years' budgets.
In the face of growing constraints, Street announced cuts including a reduction in trash collection citywide to once per week -- a measure which has long been the standard in West Philadelphia -- and a discontinuation of curbside appliance removal by the city. Hours at many libraries will be reduced, streets will be paved less frequently and the city will reduce its work force to about 2,200 employees.
Penn will likely feel the effects of the service cuts.
"I think the biggest impact on the University at this point is simply understanding the limitations that will result coming out of the operational budgets" which include streets and services, Associate Director of City and Commonwealth Relations Dawn Maglicco said.
"We're still analyzing" the budget, Maglicco said. "It takes the City Council the better part of 90 days to have public hearings and to make their shifts and pass that budget, and it often looks much different on the other end than it does going in."
Vice President for Government, Community and Public Affairs Carol Scheman noted the potential impact on programs especially important to Penn.
"This being a very, very difficult year for the City is an issue for us," Scheman said. "We want to see the Mayor's River City Initiative and the wireless initiative move forward -- we think that they're both really great ideas."
The River City Initiative seeks to develop the area along the Schuylkill River and improve access between Center City and West Philadelphia. The city is also looking to offer wireless access to the internet across the entire city.
Scheman also expressed her hope that projects like development along the Schuylkill River and near 30th Street Station -- which will directly affect the University as it prepares to expand eastward toward Center City -- will continue to progress despite budget constraints.
"In terms of the capital budget, as the hearings go we'll monitor that, and we'll make sure that the annual funding that has been committed to the Schuylkill River Development Corporation continues to be committed in upcoming fiscal years," said Carol de Fries, Executive Director of the Office of Government Community and Public Affairs.
City Councilwoman Janie Blackwell, who represents West Philadelphia, said she would work to ensure the region fares well despite fiscal limitations.
"Many of the issues that affect us and the issues that we're involved with started so long ago that I think we'll be in pretty good shape," Blackwell said. "We're blessed, we've been working hard with all interested parties, so I think for the most part we'll continue to move forward in spite of stringent budget constraints."
Blackwell was also pleased with Street's mention of SEPTA in his budget address.
"I was glad that he did mention SEPTA and the Market Street Elevated reconstruction plan," Blackwell said. "That's been a big problem for us."
De Fries noted that reductions in city services to community members could also impact the University.
"As the strains on the city tighten ... it could be that if a health community center closes down, and it might be in this area, then we might see an impact in people going to [the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania] and [the Presbyterian Hospital] that previously received their assistance at a community health center instead," de Fries said. "Those are the concerns that we always want to look at once the budget like this has come out."
Scheman noted that the upcoming release of state and federal budget proposals at the beginning of February will have a more direct impact on Penn.
"The bottom line is that we are a city within a city -- we in fact provide the vast majority of our own services," Scheman said.
"Our concern with the city budget is the viability of the city. We know that our futures are tied together, and we're interested in the city thriving and continuing to grow into the great city we know it can be."Comments powered by Disqus
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