Archive: January, 2009
About a week and a half ago, I started "setting the table" for what could be a topic of discussion during the upcoming citizen budget forums by talking about the potential for tax increases, also known by its less incendiary name, "revenue enhancement," or its Simpsonized name, "temporary refund adjustments."
That sparked a nice little conversation in the comments when It's Our Money reader NHB, not to be confused with pop culture favorite NPH, wrote the following:
A quick snapshot of my family's finances while looking for a home in Montgomery County instead of in our current Northwest Philadelphia area(Mount Airy): Property Taxes increase roughly $2000 a year (to $4200 from $2200) and wage taxes are reduced to $0 from our family's current $4640 a year. And this is before the threats of any more increases in either the wage or property tax camoe to fruition. Not to mention improved schools, less crime, and better overall community services. Anybody with a good reason why my family should stop looking in Montco? I'd love to hear it. Oh yeah, and buying that $220000 house in Mt. Airy? Tack on $6600 in title transfer fees that add about $40 a month to your mortgage debt (i.e.- $15000 over the life of an average 30yr. loan. Not Buy Buy Philly... more like Bye Bye Philly.
On Friday, Free Library Director Siobhan Reardon prepared a report for the library trustees recommending a plan to keep every branch open five days a week.
By Wednesday night, Nutter administration spokesman Doug Oliver said that the issue had not yet been decided and that libraries could be open as few as three days a week.
And yesterday, Reardon said in an interview that "nothing is more fluid than this library schedule."
According to the report, the Police Department is owed about $3.4 million in payments that have been due at least 60 days. The billings were for police protection at private events, and for state reimbursements for police training.
But Philadelphia's professional sports teams, listed in Butkovitz's report as owing a total of $440,000, said that they're current in their payments to the Police Department.
Comcast-Spectacor spokesman Ike Richman said that the company always promptly pays invoices for police protection at Sixers and Flyers games. He said that a recent check wasn't cashed by the city, and that city officials called yesterday and asked the company to send a new one.
District Attorney Lynne Abraham last week requested a state-mandated salary increase - but she plans to donate her $4,409 raise to the Free Library of Philadelphia.
State law dictates that a district attorney's salary must be $1,000 less than a judge of the Court of Common Pleas in that district.
Judges got a 2.8 percent cost-of-living increase on Jan. 1, so Abraham's office submitted paperwork for an equivalent raise last week to the city Finance Department. She requested an increase from $156,441 to $160,850.
We asked Schwartz to clarify his statement as he was leaving the meeting. "We are going to do everything in our power not to close library branches, but I make no guarantees," he said.
Through cutbacks and limited payroll growth, the agency has significantly improved its bottom line and is on track to transfer $31.1 million to the city's general fund and $600,000 to the School District of Philadelphia.
That represents a 17 percent increase over last year's transfer, and 54 percent more than the authority contributed in 2007. Recent increases in parking-meter and parking-ticket rates are partly credited, but the impact of those hikes on the authority's current fiscal year, which ends March 30, is limited.
"The Philadelphia Parking Authority is doing its best to reduce costs and maximize collection so the city and school district can get as much money as possible in these hard times," Executive Director Vincent Fenerty said in an interview. "The city has asked us to minimize our expenses, which we've been doing for 16 months now. Our belt is very tight now."
Naturally, the state, which has financial troubles of its own, will be reluctant to pick up county court costs statewide, which are estimated to be in excess of $400 million.
But, the county commissioners do have political clout. So does Nutter - along with other mayors in other Pennsylvania cities. The Supreme Court, seeing how little progress has been made on this issue, is likely to add pressure on the legislature as well.
To me, that sounds like a formidable alliance.
Although he acknowledged that declining property values had been a factor, Nutter singled out the BRT's alleged sluggishness. Led by seven board members appointed by city judges, the BRT adjusted the values of 18,000 properties last year, just 3 percent of real estate citywide. In 2007, it revalued 400,000 properties, or 69 percent.
The Nutter administration expected a 4.90 percent increase in property-tax collections this fiscal year. It will get only 2.29 percent more.
"It's very difficult to get done the things we need to get done if we're not assessing the proper number of properties," Nutter said.