Rumors are swirling over at the Defender Association of Philadelphia about possible layoffs due to the city's growing budget trouble. A spokeswoman for Chief Defender Ellen Greenlee said no layoffs have happened but the office is in negotiation with Mayor Nutter's Finance Department. The Defender Association represents in court seven out of 10 people arrested in Philadelphia.
Greenlee, testifying in an City Council budget hearing in April, said her office had "certainly a large request" for fiscal year 2009, which started on July 1. She suggested that was in part due to Mayor Street's administration ignoring requests for increases over the years. Greenlee was asking for a $2.3 million increase in funding. She planned to use most of that money to add 16 new attorneys to her 216-attorney staff, increase starting attorney salaries from $48,500 to $50,000 and to give her entire staff a cost of living increase. The rest of the budget increase would be used to pay for computers, software licenses, rent and the escalating cost of malpractice insurance.
Rob Dubow, Nutter's finance director, told PhillyClout today that he has asked the Defender Association for a 5 percent budget cut in fiscal year 2009 and a 10 percent cut in fiscal year 2010. The city and Defender Association have not laid out any plans for how that will happen and are still working to schedule a meeting on the issues. The city supplies 97 percent of the Defender Association budget while the other 3 percent comes from state and federal grants.