Archive: August, 2009
Even if the state approves the city budget relief, may more cuts be on the way?
Two weeks ago, Mayor Nutter announced a round of cuts -- delaying a police academy class, laying off workers and cutting back hours at the 3-1-1 call center -- due to a delay in getting state approval for a temporary sales tax hike.
Nutter's original budget plan counted on getting state approval to increase the local sales tax by 1 cent on the dollar for five years and to make changes in how the city's pension fund is replenished. If approved, the sales tax increase would take 4 to 6 weeks to implement. Nutter expected to get $10 million per month in sales tax revenue, starting in August.
Members of City Council just wrapped up a meeting where their legal counsel provided a briefing on the amendments added by the state Senate to House Bill 1828, the legislation that provides budget relief to the city.
HB 1828 grants the city permission to temporarily raise the sales tax and to defer some pension payments. The new version of the bill includes amendments that would bar elected officials from the controversial Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP) and would require the city to freeze the pension plan and create a lower-cost plan for all new city employees, which would have to be negotiated with municipal unions.
Union officials have slammed the plan, saying it would damage the collective bargaining process.
As the city anxiously awaits a Sept. 8 vote on legislation that would provide budget relief, Finance Director Rob Dubow says he is carefully watching the city's bank balance.
"As you know, our cash flow situation is pretty tight," Dubow said today. Last month, the city started withholding most vendor payments in an effort to preserve cash. Only payroll, benefits, debt service and payments deemed emergencies are being made at the moment.
Dubow said that because they are withholding cash, the city should be able to last several months. But he stressed that they hope state relief will happen soon.
At a press conference this morning, District Attorney Lynne Abrahm expressed her condolences to the family of Larry Frankel, the longtime local American Civil Liberties Union figure who was found dead in Washington, DC on Friday.
Saying the two had worked together for decades, Abraham called Frankel a respected friend and colleague. "Larry and I had lots of heated discussions about philosophy and which way the law should go," she said.
"It's very sad that at 54 his life is over, but his legacy is not," Abraham added.
The Department of Human Services is short $40 million in reimbursements for services. Is a new state billing system to blame?
A fugitive who reads the DN is captured by the U.S. Marshal's Fugitive Task Force.
A man is killed when a fire escape pulls out from a Center City building and falls four stories. The accident happened in the building which houses Monk's Cafe.
STATEMENT FROM MAYOR NUTTER ON TODAY’S PENNSYLVANIA GAMING CONTROL BOARD DECISION
Philadelphia, August 28 – Mayor Michael A. Nutter has issued this statement following today’s Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board decision:
I am disappointed by today’s ruling. My Administration has been working diligently with both Foxwoods and Sugarhouse over the last year and today’s news is a step backwards.
State Sen. Larry Farnese and State Rep. Mike O'Brien just put out this news release about today's ruling by the state Gaming Control Board about the Foxwoods casino:
HARRISBURG, Aug. 28 – State Rep. Mike O'Brien and Sen. Larry Farnese today chided the state gaming control board for granting the Foxwoods casino developers a two-year extension on their slots license and insisting they get the casino up and running at its originally proposed location on Columbus Boulevard in South Philadelphia.
The board approved the extension at a public hearing in Harrisburg today.
Statement from City Councilman Frank DiCicco on Gaming Control Board's ruling:
From the beginning, I have believed that gaming, if done well, will be a great benefit for Philadelphia. However, if enacted poorly, I have no doubt that gaming will irreparably harm the City and damage our neighborhoods.
Unfortunately, the extension of Foxwoods’ license and the condition that the project must be built at its waterfront location is a poor decision that damages Philadelphia’s fabric. Current traffic problems will be exacerbated making it difficult for customers to arrive and driving down gaming revenues. If revenue is lower than expected, Foxwoods will likely fail to expand retail, food or hotel services; those services would render important City taxes and improve job offerings. Likewise, the traffic problems that negatively impact Foxwoods will also impact the surrounding retail establishments and port-related facilities in South Philadelphia. While casino development could enhance surrounding businesses, Foxwoods Casino on the river would hinder its neighbors.