Philly Gets Millions From Feds As Doomsday Cuts Loom

One of the strange ironies we’ve noted in the budget process is that Philadelphia is currently poised to make massive citywide cuts at the same time the federal government is pledging to send the city millions of dollars as part of the $787 billion stimulus package.

But here’s the rub. Nearly all the money coming from the feds is dedicated for very specific purposes and cannot go to general operating expenses.

So if the city’s budget requests in Harrisburg don’t go as planned, and Mayor Nutter implements his “Plan C” doomsday budget, then the city will start laying people off, while spending millions on street repaving and airport improvements.

Here are just a few examples of the stimulus funding allocated to the city:

  • $26 million for improvements at the airport. (But who wants to travel to a city with minimal public safety and sanitation services?)
  • $15.7 million for street repaving. (Of course, there will be almost no staffers left in the Streets Department to keep these newly paved streets clean if the city goes to Plan C.)
  • $21.4 million for homeless prevention and other services. (Which no doubt will come in handy after if to 3,000 city workers lose their jobs.)
  • $13.9 million for job training. (A mere drop in the bucket of how much the city will need  if thousands lose their jobs.)

To put this all in context, according to the city’s five-year financial plan, the Free Library has a budget of $32 million this fiscal year, the recreation department has a budget of $33 million and Fairmount Park has a $12.6 million budget.

But at least one job is available in Philadelphia. The city is hiring a “recovery officer” to manage the stimulus dollars coming in.

We spoke to Mayor Nutter last week about this. He said he asked White House officials in town two weeks ago if they would consider providing cities with waivers to use some stimulus funds for budget problems. We’ve called the White House press office to see if they have any comment on that idea.