Archive: June, 2012
Members of the union representing blue collar schools workers have packed City Council chambers today to urge Council to provide funding to the embattled school district.
“For 26 years I’ve come to work every day. I’m the first one in, I’m the last one out,” said Ernie Bennett, a school engineer. “Why are we being punished?Why are we the scapegoats for mismanagement?”
The workers, from District 1201 of Local 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union, have been trying to negotiate a new contract with the school district, but so far they have failed to reach a deal. The 2,700 members have received layoff notices and layoffs would start mid-July if they don’t reach an agreement.
We at PhillyClout have covered more than a few budget debates in our time. But this is the first year that Twitter has really been in full force as part of the debate. And it makes for some interesting commentary online.
For example today, the mayor’s press secretary Mark McDonald (@PhillyPressSec) tweeted the following: ”Will Council step up for the school students of Philadelphia? Confronting unprecedented school fiscal crisis, what will Council do?
Not long after that, Council President Darrell Clarke’s spokeswoman Jane Roh (@Jane_Roh) tweeted this: “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Property Assessments #phillybudget”
Another day of epic budget talks continue today in City Council. We’re up in chambers where there’s a full house of students, union workers, citizen advocates and others all interested in the outcome.
So far it looks like Council is on course to delay the mayor’s proposed property tax overhaul and provide less funding than he requested for schools. Just how much money the schools will get is still the big question mark. Last week Council gave preliminary approval to raising $20 million through a small property tax hike and $20 million through an increase to a business tax known as the use and occupancy tax. But the votes appear shaky for the use and occupancy hike.
Meanwhile there’s a bunch of maneuvering going on in Harrisburg by both Council and the mayor, which you can read about here.
Former Philadelphia Housing Authority chief Michael Kelly -- who was brought in to clean up the troubled agency -- resigned over an affair with a staffer.
Council support appears to be waning to increase a business tax to raise money for schools.
El Wingador is charged with cocaine distrabution.
Chris Brennan & Barbara Laker
Michael Kelly was presented here as a turn-around manager who would repair the damage at the Philadelphia Housing Authority by the scandal-scarred leadership of former executive director Carl Greene, including secretly settled sexual harassment suits. But Kelly left PHA Friday with his own scandal in tow: An affair with a woman he appointed to head the agency's department of human resources.
Estelle Richman, a U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department senior staffer who is once again taking control of PHA, confirmed this afternoon that someone at the Philadelphia agency complained about the affair between Kelly and Audrey Lim. Richman said her predecessor, Karen Newton-Cole, appointed PHA staffer Kelvin Jeremiah to investigate. Jeremiah, who followed Kelly here from New York City's housing agency, confirmed the affair, Richman said.
"He felt that there had been no misuse of federal funds in any way and that it was a consensual affair," Richman said of Jeremiah's investigation, which wrapped up in May. Jeremiah is now acting executive director after Kelly's departure Friday.
The city’s fiscal watchdog today told the Nutter administration that if the mayor’s proposed property tax overhaul is delayed, then the city needs to revise their five-year-financial plan.
Sam Katz, board chairman of the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority, said that if the move to a property tax system based on market values – known as the Actual Value Initiative (AVI) -- is held up by City Council, the city should rewrite the five year plan based on the assumption that the current tax system remains in place. Katz reasons that it’s not prudent for the administration to count on Council approving AVI in the future.
Finance Director Rob Dubow said such a rewrite would require the city to project cuts in future years, given the expectation of costly appeals without AVI. He said it was too soon to say exactly how that would play out.
If you're still trying to figure out what will happen under Mayor Nutter's proposed property tax overhaul -- known as the Actual Value Initiative (AVI) -- this is a helpful tool. The folks at the Philadelphia Public Interest Information Network have taken recent property sales data and applied the possible AVI tax rate to those homes to show where bills may be heading.
As we've reported, many of the more recently gentrified neighborhoods like Northern Liberties, Bella Vista and Graduate Hospital could see major increases under a tax system based on accurate market values and this map bears that out. We should stress that the tax rate for AVI has not yet been set.
For now, it looks like City Council wants to delay AVI until the 2013-14 fiscal year.
In a Daily News special report, staff writers Morgan Zalot and Phil Lucas take a look at the impact of a 23 percent spike in the city's murder rate. You can read their package of stories here.
A Philadelphia homicide detective accused of inflating his salary with bogus overtime claims gets the boot from Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey but will hang onto his city pension.
The It's Our Money team finds another Boat House Row restaurant where the city has been paying for utilities.