Nutter's budget sparks a controversy

February 15, 2008 5:29:49 PM PST
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter is embroiled in his first budget controversy. He is being criticized for making cuts to an after school program, but Nutter says it's more complicated than that.

The Beacon After School program has been targeted for shutdown in a massive budget slash set for March 1.

It is the result of Mayor Nutter's 21-million dollar funding cut from the Safe and Sound program, a non-profit, taxpayer-funded program that was a favorite of former Mayor John Street. Safe and Sound manages contracts for hundreds of providers. Many parents who counted on this program feel violated.

Mayor Nutter is reversing a decision by Mayor Street to increase Safe and Sound's money. Nutter says the increase was never properly authorized and his predecessor in effect robbed Peter to pay Paul. He said John Street appropriated millions that should have been used to fund state mandated programs through the city's Human Services Department, but instead sent to the funding to Safe and Sound during the windup of his term.

Nutter's cuts will force 10 Beacon community centers servicing thousands of children and their parents to close. It will force hundreds of layoffs from Safe and Sound's contracted agencies as well. Officials with those agencies say they are providing valuable services in some of Philadelphia's most dangerous neighborhoods.

Mayor Street was not available for comment today. A spokesperson for Mayor Nutter tells me he will address the issue next week.