Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Nutter gets out ahead of next year's budget crisis

Of course on one hand it's bad news that the Nutter administration feels compelled to ask all departments to cut their FY 2011 budgets by 7.5%. We know some city workers believe their departments have been cut to the bone as is, and some citizens are already feeling frustrated about service cuts. It's a bad situation.

Nutter gets out ahead of next year's budget crisis

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Of course on one hand it's bad news that the Nutter administration feels compelled to ask all departments to cut their FY 2011 budgets by 7.5%. We know some city workers believe their departments have been cut to the bone as is, and some citizens are already feeling frustrated about service cuts. It's a bad situation.

On the other hand, though, it's good to see the administration thinking about this in advance. Mayor Nutter ran on a platform of better, more efficient governance -- the idea that the city could save money by being smarter was implicit in his argument. But his first budget had to be proposed just a couple of months into his first term (hardly enough time to rethink city government), and the economy crashed before he could propose his second one. Instead of thoughtful reform, the administration had to focus on making up $2 billion in a hurry.

The problem wasn't necessarily solved when they finished. Even before Budget Director Stephen Agostini said Wednesday that the economy "isn't turning around" like the city hoped, the stimulus was propping up municipalities around the country. There was reason for Nutter to think he'd return to the chopping (and taxing) block. But it wasn't clear that the mayor realized this, and we were worried that when the next budget rolled around, it would be all-hands-on-deck, no-time-for-reform, emergency measures all over again.

Instead, departments now have a few months to figure out how to do things the way Nutter initially suggested he'd do them: savvily. Will it be pleasant? Oh, definitely not. But at least there's a little bit of time to think.

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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.

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