Nutter makes $20 million in cuts, urges Harrisburg to act quickly

The city will sharply cut back on its new 311 program, delay a police recruiting class and cut $1.5 million from politically sensitive low income housing fund, Mayor Nutter said today, as he announced yet another round of budget cuts, this one topping $20 million.

The mayor said the cuts were necessary due to the inaction of state lawmakers, who are considering legislation that would let the city increase its sales tax and reduce pension payments over the short term.

“There are real consequences to inaction. Every week that passes without Senate approval costs the city millions of dollars, forcing ever deeper cuts to services,” Nutter said in a statement.

Each month the that the city’s legislation fails to win approval costs Philadelphia about $10 million in lost sales tax income, Nutter said.

Although the House has passed the bill authorizing the sales tax hike and pension payment structuring, the Senate has just begun considering the legislation, and no vote is likely until Aug. 26 at the earliest, according to a timetable released last week by Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R., Del.).

The cuts announced today were small compared to what will be neccessary if the Senate utterly rejects the city’s legislative requests. That scenario would force Philadelphia to adopt what Nutter has called a “doomsday” or “plan C” budget, which would include mass police and fire layoffs, as well as twice monthly garbage collection, Nutter has said.

But unlike the plan C budget — which is becoming a less and less likely possibility, as Senate leaders have indicated they will likely pass at least some version of the city’s request — the cuts Nutter announced today are real and lasting. Even if the Senate were to approve the city’s legislation immediately, the $20 million in cuts would have to be made.

The spending cuts include:

  • A sharp reduction in hours for the 311 call center. Beginning Aug. 29, the 24-hour service will be closed on Sundays, open only from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays, and from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays. The move will save $230,000 a year.
  • More than 100 police cadets will not be hired this fall as scheduled, saving $3.2 million this fiscal year.
  • The city will cease purchasing any replacement vehicles — except for police cars — this fiscal year, saving $4.8 million.
  • $8 million in cuts through elimination of positions and reduced contracting in departments such as Finance, Commerce, Planning, Law, Streets and the Mayor’s Office.

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