Mayor Nutter addresses budget crisis

February 10, 2009 4:33:52 PM PST
The Nutter administration is trying to cope with Philadelphia's economic crisis, and the mayor discussed the dire situation with regional business leaders.Mayor Nutter got a big ovation from the Chamber of Commerce crowd at today's annual luncheon, as he promised to keep taxes low and make government more efficient.

But, he also pointed to the elephant in the room: How to keep Philadelphia liveable in the middle of the world economic crisis as he tries to whittle away at massive budget shortfalls eating into city services.

"Are people willing to pay for their trash, or have a different cycle for pick-up? Are we willing to pay slightly more for critical services in police and fire and keeping our libraries open, our recreation centers and our swimming pools," Mayor Nutter said.

On Monday night, the mayor had his department heads present worse case budget cut scenarios: A 30% cut of the police department budget, for example, would mean laying off nearly 2,600 of the deparment's 6,600 sworn officers.

"I'm not overly concerned, because that's a worst case scenario," said John McNesby of the Fraternal Order of Police. "Best case scenario, nobody gets hurt, they come through in Washington with the stimulus package, they put more police on the street.

Some believe the mayor is posturing for more fee increases, or possible tax hikes.

"I don't believe there is any appetite for cutting into the public safety and welfare of our citizens, and that would include police and fire," said Councilman William Green, Jr.

Can President Obama's stimulus plan spare us all these painful cuts? One expert says at least partial salvation may come from Washington.

There are opportunities in law enforcement, in weatherizing housing, there are opportunities in energy saving that might benefit our streets department. There are opportunities available to schools of major proporitions," said Ed Schwartz of the Institute for Public Values.

Mayor Nutter is expected to deliver his budget proposal to City Council on March 19th, long after he should know how much stimulus money is coming from Washington.

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