In an effort to reconcile its budget gap, Philadelphia may be forced to adopt Mayor Michael Nutter's updated five-year plan (Plan C) - dubbed the "doomsday" budget - this Friday.
Plan C calls for $700 million in cuts, including the end of the City's court system, the closing of all 53 Free Library branches, the reduction of trash collection and the loss of 3,000 government jobs.
"I never thought that I would have to submit a plan this devastating to the City and region," Nutter wrote in a letter to the City Council.
Plan C can be avoided with the passage of House Bill 1828, which would increase the local sales tax by 1 percent for five years and defer City pension contributions. The bill, opposed by labor unions and many state lawmakers, is currently awaiting its fate in Harrisburg.
The Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority, whose purpose is to provide assistance to Philadelphia in the case of a severe financial crisis, has conditionally approved a five-year plan that assumes the passage of HB 1828.
But if the bill fails to pass by Friday, the City will send notices to employees being laid off effective Oct. 2.
The Free Library of Philadelphia already welcomes visitors to its website with a pop-up notice proclaiming, "Urgent Action Needed: All Libraries to Close Oct. 2!!!"
The cuts outlined in Plan C will impact a wide range of services.
Almost 1,000 members of the Police Department and 200 members of the Fire Department will be laid off.
The Philadelphia Streets Department will only collect trash biweekly instead of weekly.
All 160 facilities and programs operated by the Department of Recreation will be terminated, including after-school programs and recreation centers.
The Fairmount Park system will no longer maintain Philadelphia's 63 neighborhood parks.
Some say Nutter's Plan C is unnecessarily dire and unworkable, perhaps as a way to convince state lawmakers to pass HB 1828.
City Controller Alan Butkovitz pointed out that Nutter has no legal authority to abolish the court system, a move which would save the City $470 million.
"He contends that several Supreme Court decisions say that it's a state responsibility [to maintain the court system]," Butkovitz said, adding "I don't think that there's a very strong possibility [that Plan C will be implemented]."
Sherrie Cohen, a member of the Coalition for Essential Services, said Nutter is using the plan as a "scare tactic" to get support for the bill in Harrisburg.
"He's creating this sense of emergency," she said. "There is no doomsday. The mayor does not have to implement this."
Butkovitz believes that HB 1828 will be approved within the next few days.
"It'll be passed before the [state] budget is finalized," he said.Comments powered by Disqus
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