As we reported yesterday, the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority has affirmed the credibility of an administration-commissioned study from Boston College, which said the program has cost the city $258 million since 1999.
Today, the state created fiscal watchdog, sent Mayor Nutter a letter expressing support for ending the DROP program. "Clearly this costly and misused human resources tool must be eliminated," wrote PICA Board Chairman Jim Eisenhower.
You can read the letter here.
Buy those electronics fast!
Philadelphia's sales tax hike will go into effect on Oct. 8, according to Janel Miller, spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue
The sales tax will go from 7 cents to 8 cents on the dollar. Two cents will come to the city and the rest to the state. The increase -- which was approved last week by the state legislature to help the city balance the budget -- is set to last five years and is expected to bring $580 million during the time.
Catherine LuceyThe Penn Project for Civic Engagement has posted the reports from the first community budget workshop on their website.
You can go through and see how 12 different groups tried to plug a budget gap using a list of cuts and tax hikes that were assigned point values. The goal was to get to 100 points. For example: cutting 20 percent from the police budget was worth 26 points, but cutting 30 percent from recreation only got you 5.
What's clear from most of the reports is that the groups largely had great difficulty reaching the goal. Many disputed the premise and made alternate lists of how the city could close the gap. Most groups came in between about 30 and 70 points. Except for one -- group 8 got all the way to 99. How did they do it? Among other things, they raised the wage tax, the real estate tax, the sales tax, cut courts and prisons and added a trash fee.
To try out the worksheet yourself, click here. Or you can head to the next workshop, tonight in Germantown at Mastery Charter School.
Catherine LuceyWe took in the first citizen budget workshop last night at St. Dominic's School in Holmesburg. More than five hundred people attended the meeting, hosted by the Penn Project for Civic Engagement. The night started with a briefing from city officials on the budget crisis -- the city faces a $1 billion shortfall over five years -- and then broke into small group sessions where participants tried to rank their budget priorities.
One of our favorite thing about the evening was the "Wailing Wall," a board set up in the school auditorium where people could pin notes to the city. Most messages said things like, "Cut Nutter's increasing staff," "No tax loopholes for big corporations," or "Stop letting city employees take city cars home."
But here was the best one: "I would like to meet a good looking single woman my age (68)."
Why solve the financial crisis when you can look for love?
We've been reviewing the scenarios prepared by city departments to show the impact of 10, 20 or 30 percent budget cuts on their operations. As we've reported before, these scenarios -- prepared to show the city's options for closing a $1 billion budget hole over five years -- show devastating reductions for departments like police, streets and libraries.
The mayor's office, which had a budget of $6.6 million after the fall budget cuts, also prepared scenarios. They did a 10 percent and a 20 percent report, both of which include staff reductions and reorganization of units. But when it comes to 30 percent, they didn't do a scenario. The document just says "would require complete reorganization of Mayor's Office."
We asked Mayor Nutter why his own office didn't do all the scenarios.
If the stimulus package becomes a reality, Philadelphia seems poised to get a cut of the funding for key priorities like schools, transit and housing. But Mayor Nutter stressed tonight that stimulus money will not help him close the $1 billion shortfall in his five year plan.
“These dollars are not to fill budget holes. Everyone has made that very clear,” Nutter said tonight. “The theory here is when more people are working, they’re paying taxes. Then tax revenues will flow and those dollars will come back to Philadelphia.”
Nutter, who spent the day in Washington DC today to meet with lawmakers about the stimulus package, said he was optimistic about Philadelphia’s fate under the stimulus deal, but didn’t yet know exactly what programs will get funding – or by how much.
So the first of four community budget workshops -- put on by the Penn Project for Civic Engagement -- is scheduled for tomorrow night in Northeast Philly. We just looked over the format outlined on the Penn website and these are going to be serious sessions.
After a briefing from senior administration officials, participants will break up into small working groups that will analyze budget options before the city. Penn Project Director Harris Sokoloff said they will be using the data presented to City Council Monday night about possible budget cuts.
Sokoloff also said they have reached out to churches, civic associations and block captains to let people know about the workshops. "This is a fairly distinct opportunity," he said.