Archive: February, 2009
State and local leaders are facing massive budget deficits due to the sorry economy and sagging tax revenues.
And while the federal government can run deficits, most state and local governments are required by law to balance their budgets every year.
Read the peice by clicking on the link below.
Link: Busting open the budget [Daily News]
The idea of a $5 per week fee for trash pick up took on a slightly different cast last night at the Sustainability Forum, held at the Academy of Natural Sciences.
Rina Cutler, Deputy Mayor for Transportation and Utlities was one of three presenters at the forum – along with City Finance Director Rob DuBow, and Sustainability Director Mark Alan Hughes. She suggested that while her idea to charge for trash pickup had its root in saving money, it might also fit within the city’s larger sustainability strategy.
Here’s the rationale: If they have to pay for trash pick up, maybe people will think twice about how much trash they produce, and perhaps start recycling more. (Now be honest: how much of that stuff you throw in the trash might go into a recyling bin instead?)
Seeking ways to raise revenue, Philadelphia Prisons Commissioner Louis Giorla floated a proposal yesterday to charge criminals money to get in to city jails.
That was enough to stump city Managing Director Camille Barnett.
Link: What extra fees are you willing to pay, and for what? [Daily News]
You may have to. The idea of a trash pickup fee is being floated as a way to generate up to $100 million a year to fill the big hole in the city's budget.
In fact, faced with a crisis, city leaders are flirting heavily with the idea of imposing more fees; there has been talk of imposing a $35 fee on those arrested, raising the fee for ambulance service, and charging fees for pools to keep them open.
In some circumstances, fees may be a good idea, but we hope the mayor studies this carefully before diving into the fee-for-service pool.
Most municipalities have grappled with the fee-for-service issue, especially when the economic going gets rough. Fees can be quick fixes for budget holes. But most taxpayers realize that fees and taxes are essentially the same thing. And aren’t our taxes already enough to get the services we need?
The city of Washington DC prepares an annual review of tax burdens around the country. Philadelphia constantly lands on the top of the heap for the highest burden. Major taxes for a hypothetical family of three in this city is about $4200 for a family making $25,000 a year, $8600 at $50,000 income, and $11,000 for those making $75,000.
So what should we be getting for that money? That’s the key question, though difficult to answer. Most of us agree that we pay taxes in part to receive direct services, as well as services that we may never use, but are necessary for the common good. Many don't use social or public health services, and many don't have children in the public schools. Yet we still support those items. It would be dangerous to consider that government is nothing but a shopping mall of services, where we get to pick and choose only what we ourselves absolutely need.
That’s why the city should come up with rational criteria for services that might justify fees. Services essential to the greater good is arguably one of the jobs of government. And trash pickup could be considered one of those. Without trash collection, we’d have a big public health problem. (And what would the city do if some people didn't pay their fees? Would that trash not get picked up?)
Other cases, like the pools, where the choice is charge a fee or close, might be more clear cut.
The public conversation around the city over the budget (such as the citizen workshop tonight) provides a great venue for exploring this idea. So is the budget website www.ourmoneyphilly.com, where you can weigh in on this issue.
February 18th, 2009
1:30om - 3pm
Municipal Services Building
1417 John F Kennedy Blvd
Philadelphia, PA 19102
Youth Forum on City Budget with Mayor Nutter
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
4:00pm - 7:00pm
City Hall (Mayor's Reception Room)
15th and Market
"Tight Times, Tough Choices" workshop
Wednesday, Feb. 18
7:00pm to 9:30pm
Mastery Charter School,Pickett Campus,
5700 Wayne Ave, Philadelphia PA
Sustainability and the City Budget: Choices and Trade-offs for Philadelphia
February 19, 2009
6:00-6:30- Reception; 6:30-8:30- Program
Academy of Natural Sciences
19th St. and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway
As they deal with the latest fiscal crisis, Nutter and his inner circle are opening up the budget process. They are taking more steps to try to shape public opinion, and paying greater attention to how their work is perceived.
Consider: Eight days ago, Nutter publicly briefed City Council on the consequences of department budget cuts of up to 30 percent. Last Tuesday, he discussed Philadelphia's financial outlook with 1,500 business leaders.
The severity of Philadelphia’s current fiscal crisis — the city faces a $1 billion deficit over five years — prompted Mayor Michael A. Nutter to arrange the meetings in an effort to win public support for what he says will be painful spending cuts or tax increases, or both. Law requires that the budget be balanced.
For the mayor himself, the budget process has included committee discussions in public buildings, breakfasts in diners and a meeting with a handful of neighbors and family members in a private home.