Nutter: City Budget Deficit 'Grave & Worsening'

Mayor Nutter just announced that the deficit in the city's five-year financial plan, which stood at $1 billion in November, is now "grave and worsening."  After closing that gap, Nutter said, the city finds itself with a new $1 billion deficit.  That is the result of what the mayor called the "global recession," which has reduced the amount of money the city takes in for real estate transfer taxes and wage taxes and has created losses in the city's pension fund.

Nutter spoke of balancing brag-worthy city services with a "unwavering commitment to sound fiscal practices, starting with living within our means."  He also called on the city, including the four municipal unions to work together and accept the "shared pain" of the financial crisis.

“We cannot spend what we don’t have," Nutter said. "We cannot use one-time fiscal gimmicks. And we will not play games with our fiscal books.”

Nutter said all city agencies will now be called on to draw up budgets for the coming fiscal year with proposals to cut 10 percent, 20 percent and 30 percent.  That will enable Nutter and his staff to travel around the city for "community budget workshops" where residents can set priorities for where the money gets spent.

Nutter also apologized for the speed his administration used to close the $1 billion gap in November and promised that he has heard the wide-spread city criticism that followed in a series of town hall meetings.  "We could have and should have done better and you deserve more," Nutter said.

Responding to media questions, Nutter said he was not going to "pre-judge" whether the city will need to raise taxes and fees and lay off more employees.  He repeatedly used the phrase: "Everything is on the table." 

Nutter also has a warning for city residents who call for employee lay-offs on a grand scale.  "Everyone wants quality service and no employees," he said. That’s absurd."  And he pointed out that the city doesn't have the luxury of some critics with a "myopic" focus on single issues, which sounded like a pointed observation about critics who have decried attempts to close library branches.