Philly’s Financial Future All Up to Harrisburg


"No budget cuts. No budget cuts." echoed off the limestone walls of Philadelphia City Hall Thursday as throngs of angry residents rallied for Harrisburg's passage of two bills designed to help the city generate much needed revenue. Mayor Michael Nutter was one of them.

"We're not asking the Commonwealth, we're not asking the General Assembly, we're not asking the governor for one dime," shouted Nutter from a platform surrounded by the city's highest ranking officials. "We're asking for help, to help ourselves in this crisis."

The city needs the state's approval to implement two initiatives: a temporary one-percent hike in sales tax and the restructuring of the pension program.

Philadelphia is facing a $1.4 billion budget deficit over the next five years. City officials have been in a frenzy trying to fill the gap -- cutting programs, freezing wages and going after tax deadbeats -- but are falling short by more than $400 million. If they are not able to find the money, the ax will fall on approximately 3,000 workers.

Here's a breakdown of some of the potential cuts:

Elimination of 972 positions including 739 sworn officers, 43 civilians, and 190 by attrition.

Deactivation of 6 engine companies, 3 ladder companies, and 5 ALS medic units.
As a result, eliminating 36 officer positions, 120 firefighter positions, and 40 paramedics positions.
Engine and ladder deactivations will likely result in the complete closure of fire houses.

Closure of 2 City Health Centers resulting in a significant negative impact on Philadelphia’s uninsured population.
Elimination of the Medical Evaluation Unit.
Elimination of 112 positions.

Reduction of trash pick up to twice a month, eliminating 350 positions.
Reduction of citywide cleaning and eliminate all citywide support staff, an additional 50 positions.

Closure of all Recreation Centers and cease all programming.
Elimination of 450 positions.

Free Library
Cease operations at all branch and regional libraries, eliminating 490 positions.

Fairmount Park
Cease all operations, eliminating 142 positions.

Commerce Department and Philadelphia City Planning Commission
Cease all operations, eliminating 59 positions in total.

Further eliminated positions
Mayor’s Office -- 18 positions
Managing Director’s Office -- 21 positions
L&I -- 6 positions
Finance Department -- 23 positions
Division of Technology -- 79 positions
Human Resources -- 8 positions
Records -- 12 positions
Revenue -- 2 positions

"People got to pay their bills, people got to pay their mortgage, people got to send their kids to school -- I don't understand it," water department worker Vance Fanning told NBC Philadelphia's Doug Shimell. "I can't see how they couldn't pass it."

An increase to the sales tax alone could generate $340 million over two years, according to officials. But state lawmakers haven't been so keen on an increase. "So far, it doesn't look like the city is doing anything to help itself," State Rep. John Perzel said in May. He alluded to cuts as being the ultimate solution.

However, those most affected by the potential changes are prepared for a fight. "We provide a lot of core services to a lot of poor people...and if that's cut, what's going to happen to the poor people," said Lisa Segarra of the Norris Square Civic Association.

“Call your state representative or state senator," Nutter urged in a statement Thursday. "Ask friends and family from other parts of the Commonwealth, especially our suburbs, to call their legislators to ask them to help Philadelphia, because it’s important for the rest of Pennsylvania.”

Friday, Nutter takes his fight to the business community. He's hosting business leaders from across the city to discuss the financial situation including Comcast, the area's largest corporation.

Hey, maybe they'll help by throwing City Hall a couple bucks.

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