City Council preliminary approves Philly’s $6.2 billion budget. Wage and business tax cuts among the highlights
Approved by City Council’s Committee of the Whole, a final vote is set to take place next week on June 15 before heading to Mayor Jim Kenney’s desk.
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A $6.2 billion city budget addressing illegal dumping, parental leave, and hiring bonuses among other measures was preliminarily approved by the Philadelphia City Council’s Committee of the Whole on Wednesday, June 8, almost guaranteeing its final approval on June 15 before it heads to the desk of Mayor Jim Kenney for a final signature. It is Kenney’s last budget as mayor.
The budget is also the last for Council President Darrell L. Clarke, who is retiring after 12 years at the helm of local government.
The budget will cover the last six months of Kenney’s time in office and the first six months of his successor’s terms, whether it be Democratic Primary winner Cherelle Parker, or Republican David Oh. District 5 Democratic primary winner Jeffrey Young will likely be Clarke’s replacement on City Council.
“The needs of our citizens and residents are great, and City Council is doing what it historically always does — stepping up to the plate to fund programs it believes are worthy and best able to serve citizens and improve their quality of life,” said the Council President after the vote.
Expected to start on July 1 if approved, some of the highlights include better benefits to recruit and retain city workers, improving quality of life in neighborhoods, violence prevention and public safety, and a wage and business tax reduction funded by stronger-than-expected tax revenues. It also includes over $800 million surplus money from unspent federal pandemic aid.
Other measures include $10 million to fill vacancies in public safety and funding to increase parental leave benefits for city workers from four to six weeks. Millions will be invested for quality of life improvements such as cleaning vacant lots and neighborhood business corridors.
An additional $3 million will be invested for mobile crisis response teams to help police respond to 911 calls where mental health problems are indicated.
Mayor Jim Kenney spoke about the spending plan Wednesday, and said while the budget doesn’t have a “wow factor” or any large projects, there is an opportunity for the next mayor to do that after taking office in January.
Despite passing, it wasn’t a unanimous ‘yes’ from council.
Councilmember Jamie Gauthier voted against the proposed plan, citing not enough spending and she objected to the inclusion of business tax cuts.
“We can afford $18 million for corporations, but we don’t have $9 million for chronic illegal dumping. We can afford $18 million for corporations, but we don’t have $4 million to keep children safe from reckless drivers around their playgrounds,” Gauthier said.
Some of the budget’s highlights:
Workforce retention and strategy
– $3 million will be invested for Police Recruitment & Cadet Training and $1.5 Million to further develop the Police Cadet program.
– $2.1 million to increase parental leave for city workers from 4 weeks to 6 weeks.
– $5 million to fund a workforce development program in the Streets Department for existing workers.
Quality of life in neighborhoods
– $1.475 million in additional funds to combat illegal dumping in neighborhoods.
– $1 million added to have the state Horticultural Society clean more lots.
– An additional $3.5 million to expand Same Day Pay, a program that puts people to work with an emphasis on hiring returning citizens.
– $3 million more for an existing city program, Taking Care of Business, that cleans up small business shopping corridors and employs workers at a living wage. The increase makes the budget $10 million.
– $15 million to upgrade and improve recreation centers in neighborhoods across the city.
– An additional $3 million more for mobile crisis response teams meant to assist law enforcement in responding to 911 calls where mental health problems are indicated.
– $1 million to add more cameras to neighborhood rec centers and playgrounds.
– The Wage tax would decrease from 3.79% down to 3.75%.
– The original reductions proposed by Mayor Kenney would provide $150 million in tax relief over the Five-Year Plan as the additional tax cuts voted by Council would provide another $24.1 million in relief over the Five-Year Plan.
Councilmember Katherine Gilmore Richardson’s new amendment to cut the wage tax more than Mayor Kenney has previously proposed, saying the cut is only possible because of the surplus money the city has available to them.
“We can continue to signal to the broader Philadelphia that we are serious about not doing business as usual. If we want to change the trajectory of this city, if we do not want to be the number one city for poverty, large city for poverty in this country, if we want to provide good quality jobs not only for our young people, for our residents who need to reskill and upskill, it is imperative that we make important investments in our community,” she said. “Invest in ensuring that we can create an environment that is advantageous to business.”