Nutter: Plan C is 'tragic'

This morning, Mayor Michael Nutter transmitted a revised budget and five year plan to City Council. The new budget reflects massive cuts in city services and layoffs for municipal employees, which will be necessary if Harrisburg fails to approve legislation to help balance the city budget. Here are the highlights from Philly Clout:

Much of the detail has been reported before – layoffs of nearly 3,000 city workers, along with closures of libraries and recreation centers, as well as a reduction in trash collection – but the plan shows exactly how the cuts will unfold.

Over the course of the five years, the bulk of the cuts come in the first two years when the city’s cash flow problems are the most severe. For example, the Free Library, Fairmount Park and the Recreation Department will be cut back drastically this fiscal year and next, before seeing funding return in the third year of the plan. But for the next two years, the Park will have just 22 staffers, the Free Library will have 138 and Recreation will have 28.

Mayor Nutter said the adoption of Plan C was “tragic” and called it the “worst day” in his administration. The overall tone of the press conference was an equal mixture of sadness and anger. He called it “the most radical, painful, and unprecedented dismantling of the city government” since the City Charter was adopted in 1951. At the same time, Nutter clearly placed the blame on state lawmakers, saying “this terrible action need not happen if Harrisburg approves quickly, and without amendment, the legislation we've been pursing for some time.”

So, why is Nutter taking action now? Although there is still a good chance that Harrisburg will approve the enabling legislation, the city must start taking action to balance the budget. The layoff process for municipal employees is extremely complicated, thanks to civil service regulations and union contracts. Mayor Nutter estimated it take the Office of Human Resources between 8,000 to 12,000 staff hours to check the layoff data. Click here for a schedule of how the layoffs will work.

There was a telling moment at the end of the press conference, when Daily News columnist Elmer Smith asked a question about the shut down of the court system. Elmer pointed out that much of the work of the police department would be worthless without the courts and asked how the city planned to handle the situation. Nutter basically brushed aside the question, saying the focus needed to be on getting the State Senate to act.

I think this underlines just how chaotic things will be if Plan C actually happens. There doesn't seem to be a clear plan for how government will function or how the various agencies will deploy their remaining resources.