Sunday, May 3, 2015

Podcast: Sam Katz on city budget troubles

Last week, Mayor Nutter’s aides said that if the city lost an appeal of a firefighters arbitration award, it would have to make drastic cuts. Library hours could be reduced, and hundreds of jobs could be eliminated. The Nutter administration outlined the potential cuts to the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority (PICA) because its board members were skeptical of the city’s five-year budget plan.

Podcast: Sam Katz on city budget troubles

PICA chairman Sam Katz
PICA chairman Sam Katz

Last week, Mayor Nutter’s aides said that if the city lost an appeal of a firefighters arbitration award, it would have to make drastic cuts. Library hours could be reduced, and hundreds of jobs could be eliminated. The Nutter administration outlined the potential cuts to the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority (PICA) because its board members were skeptical of the city’s five-year budget plan.

Listen to this week’s podcast, in which we talk to PICA chairman Sam Katz about what the cuts could mean and how PICA might rule on the city’s budget plan.

Last week, Mayor Nutter’s aides said that if the city lost an appeal of a firefighters arbitration award, it would have to make drastic cuts. Library hours could be reduced, and hundreds of jobs could be eliminated. The Nutter administration outlined the potential cuts to the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority (PICA) because its board members were skeptical of the city’s five-year budget plan.  
Listen to this week’s podcast, in which we talk to PICA chairman Sam Katz about what the cuts could mean and how PICA might rule on the city’s budget plan.

A few highlights from our interview with Katz are below.
On whether the city would actually implement its list of potential cuts:
“I actually believe that the city budget has resources in it that, for litigation reasons, are not being disclosed. But that somewhere, buried deep in the recesses of the city budget, are some funds to take care of this problem. So this will not, in my opinion, ultimately be entirely a cut-funded arbitration award.”
On whether he agrees with PICA board member Sam Hopkins, who called Nutter’s list of potential cuts a “political scare technique”:
“I’m not sure who such a cut strategy is intended to scare. In fairness, the city is going through an appeals process on a second round of binding arbitration for the International Association of Firefighters. They believe they have a good case. It would not be in our interests as a fiscal watchdog, fiscal oversight board to insist that the city surrender its case. And so, while there may be a certain element of extremism to the list of cuts, it’s really difficult to think who’s being scared. It’s not a judge that’s going to be scared by this. And it’s a judge that’s going to make the next round of decisions.”
On whether Katz expects PICA to approve the plan:
“It is too soon to say. We’ve asked the City Controller to review the supplement. Our staff is reviewing it. There will be a lot of questions. As you will recall, the finance director described this list as a set of cuts proposed by the city’s operating department heads back in February or March when the city was going through its initial stages of its own budget process. These were not developed in response to our requests. And I want to make sure that I understand how they relate to the budget, and whether this was not simply a pile of paper designed to appease us. And I’m comfortable that we will get to that conclusion pretty quickly, but I’m not ready to say I know what it is.”

A few highlights from our interview with Katz are below.

On whether the city would actually implement its list of potential cuts:

“I actually believe that the city budget has resources in it that, for litigation reasons, are not being disclosed. But that somewhere, buried deep in the recesses of the city budget, are some funds to take care of this problem. So this will not, in my opinion, ultimately be entirely a cut-funded arbitration award.”

The city says its list of potential cuts are sound. Read more here.

On whether he agrees with PICA board member Sam Hopkins, who called Nutter’s list of potential cuts a “political scare technique”:

“I’m not sure who such a cut strategy is intended to scare. In fairness, the city is going through an appeals process on a second round of binding arbitration for the International Association of Firefighters. They believe they have a good case. It would not be in our interests as a fiscal watchdog, fiscal oversight board to insist that the city surrender its case. And so, while there may be a certain element of extremism to the list of cuts, it’s really difficult to think who’s being scared. It’s not a judge that’s going to be scared by this. And it’s a judge that’s going to make the next round of decisions.”

On whether Katz expects PICA to approve the plan:

“It is too soon to say. We’ve asked the City Controller to review the supplement. Our staff is reviewing it. There will be a lot of questions. As you will recall, the finance director described this list as a set of cuts proposed by the city’s operating department heads back in February or March when the city was going through its initial stages of its own budget process. These were not developed in response to our requests. And I want to make sure that I understand how they relate to the budget, and whether this was not simply a pile of paper designed to appease us. And I’m comfortable that we will get to that conclusion pretty quickly, but I’m not ready to say I know what it is.”

About this blog
Every year, city government spends slightly more than $4 billion. Where does all that money come from? More importantly, where does it go? Are we getting the most bang for our tax buck? “It's Our Money” is a joint project between Philadelphia Daily News and WHYY, funded by the William Penn Foundation, designed to answer these questions.

It's Our Money contributors

Tips? Comments? Questions?
Contact:

Holly Otterbein:
215-854-5809
hm.otterbein@gmail.com
@hollyotterbein

It's Our Money
Also on Philly.com
Stay Connected