Philly Mayor announces annual budget

March 19, 2009 3:40:17 PM PDT
Hoping to tamp down a public outcry, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter unveiled a $3.8 billion budget proposal Thursday that relies on property and sales tax increases to preserve libraries once slated for closure, protect health centers and maintain core city services. The first-term Democrat presented the spending plan to his former City Council colleagues, who now must decide whether to approve the budget with the nation's sixth-largest city facing a projected $1 billion deficit over the next five years.

Philadelphia Fiscal 2010 Operating Budget
Mayor Nutter's Five-Year Financial Plan

Philly mayor's budget plan would spare libraries Nutter's proposal calls for a temporary 19 percent increase in the property tax for the fiscal year that begins in July, followed by a 14.5 percent increase the next year. It also proposes raising the sales tax from 7 percent to 8 percent for three years - a move that requires state approval - as well as cutting about 250 jobs and making changes to the city's pension plan.

If he does not get state approval for the sales tax hike, Nutter said, a contingency plan would include laying off 256 police recruits; deactivating three engine companies, two ladder companies and three emergency medical services units; reducing library and recreation center hours; closing a health center; and reducing trash collection to three times a month.

In November, Nutter inspired citizen protests when he announced plans to close 11 libraries and 68 of 81 swimming pools because of declining tax revenue and skyrocketing pension costs. A judge later ruled the mayor could not close libraries without City Council approval.

In his budget address Thursday, Nutter said that, with the help of private funding, 36 public swimming pools will now be open this summer. Programs for abused and neglected children and homeless assistance programs also will be preserved.

Nutter has said he opposes raising the city's wage tax as a means to create more revenue, as some have suggested. He also this year scrapped a plan to generate more money by charging residents $5 weekly or $1- to $2-per-bag fees for trash collection.

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