Council passes on cuts, takes its lumps

City Council members have taken a fairly thorough drubbing in the press this year, what with reports on their salaries, their city-issued cars, their pension perks, their summer work ethic, and the tax-delinquent tendencies of some their staffers.

All this has some on Council feeling quite tetchy of late. Why, some are asking, are they coming in for so much criticism? Particularly when it comes to their use of city resources?

Part of the answer is contained in a report on the city's five-year plan issued last week by the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority.

The report includes a telling chart that graphs spending by a host of city departments and entities from 2008 through their 2010 budgeted totals. (scroll to page 33)

Most every department has made deep cuts: Commerce is down more than 35 percent, Records down 30 percent, the Mayor's Office down about 15 percent, and so on. Even most offices run by independently elected officials - such as the controller and the district attorney - are down between 8 and 10 percent.

And then there is City Council.

Despite one of the worst budget crises in recent history, despite the worst recession in decades, City Council is on track to increase spending from 2008 to 2010 by 10 percent, making it one of a handful of city spending obligations that would actually go up over that time.

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