Monday, December 22, 2014

When "minimal" amounts matter

As part of Mayor Nutter's plan to deal with the city's $1 billion budget deficit, Philadelphia no longer pays for costs associated with special events. This development has provoked some outcry, as groups like the Mummers struggle to pay for their parades without tax dollars. Today, Catherine Lucey has a story in the Daily News about a meeting between several such groups to try to secure dedicated funding for ethnic parades.

When "minimal" amounts matter

As part of Mayor Nutter's plan to deal with the city's $1 billion budget deficit, Philadelphia no longer pays for costs associated with special events. This development has provoked some outcry, as groups like the Mummers struggle to pay for their parades without tax dollars. Today, Catherine Lucey has a story in the Daily News about a meeting between several such groups to try to secure dedicated funding for ethnic parades.

Councilwoman Maria Quinones Sanchez, who pushed for the sit-down, said she didn't think that the smaller, volunteer-staffed ethnic parades should face the same financial burden as bigger events that attract more donors and corporate sponsorship.

[snip]

Sanchez also said she wants to put dedicated funding for ethnic parades in the city budget.

"The amount of money is minimal," she said. "We might be talking about $100,000 total."

The meeting will include representatives from the Puerto Rican, Italian, Irish, Greek, and other communities. The effort doesn't yet have support from Mayor Nutter, who said through spokesman Doug Oliver that the administration would have to consider all options before greenlighting the plan.

"We understand that the councilwoman would like the city to have a dedicated funding source for these ethnic parades," Oliver said. "A decision in that regard will have to be viewed in the context of the overall budget and no decision has yet been made."

It's true, as Councilwoman Sanchez says, that the amount of money at issue here isn't that large. It's also true that the headache caused by the lack of funding is major -- providing this funding might even save time for the Mayor's staff, who constantly seem to be running around trying to fund raise for parades. And city seed money might make it easier for the parades to raise money themselves from corporate sponsors. Of course, if police end up getting furloughed, the city sponsoring parades might not look so good. We'll be interested to see what comes out of the meeting.

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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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