Philadelphia budget talks about deal after compromise on funding anti-violence programs


After weeks of grueling budget negotiations with Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration, Philadelphia city council leaders said on Thursday they had reached an agreement to add $ 68 million in funding to anti-violence initiatives, as they prepared to move the full budget forward.

The compromise appeared to help break a deadlock that left lawmakers shortly before the start of the fiscal year on July 1 to finalize the spending and tax policies that will guide the city’s economic recovery over the coming year. as the pandemic abates.

On Thursday evening, board leadership circulated Kenney’s budget amendments, and members were scheduled to vote on them at a committee meeting later that night. The council was set to add $ 89 million in spending to Kenney’s original proposal, for a total of $ 5.27 billion in the next fiscal year, according to legislation obtained by The Inquirer.

While Council still had not voted on budget measures after 9 p.m., lawmakers were expected to approve a spending amendment and push forward the broader budget package – including a lean version of Kenney’s tax cut proposal on city wages.

The budget, which will increase for a final council vote next week, relies heavily on federal stimulus funds as the city recovers from the pandemic. Hearings and budget negotiations focused on efforts to reduce violence, reform the police, tackle racial inequalities and increase employment opportunities, among other issues.

READ MORE: What’s holding up Philly’s budget talks? Everyone wants a slice of stimulus money – or to be a mayor.

The availability of $ 1.4 billion in federal pandemic relief funds slowed talks as lawmakers pushed to spend in favored areas – a far cry from the austerity budget that was quickly approved last year then that the economy was in free fall. Negotiations were also influenced by political considerations, with several members seen as potential mayoral candidates in 2023 and seeking to position themselves.

Funding for violence prevention programs outside the police department, as the city faces an increase in homicides and shootings, was a major point of contention. At the end of last month, thirteen council members called for $ 100 million in new spending for things like community violence response, job training, trauma and healing services, and youth shelters. .

In the compromise orchestrated by Council Chairman Darrell L. Clarke, lawmakers will instead add just over $ 68 million in new spending, according to an administration summary of the changes. Some of that funding includes initiatives already in Kenney’s proposed budget, and it wasn’t clear Thursday night how much this was really new money released during negotiations.

But council member Kenyatta Johnson called the new spending a “paradigm shift” in the way the city deals with violence, dramatically increasing funding for prevention programs, rather than spending more money on policing. . He said better programming would start this summer.

Much of the funding will go to nonprofits and other groups that already work with youth or communities affected by violence.

“We want to make sure that over the coming summer, after this budget is passed, you will see an infusion of support,” Johnson said.

READ MORE: Philly Executives Negotiate Anti-Violence Funding, Federal Aid, Tax Cuts As Budget Deadlines Approach

The budget also provides funding for police reforms, including changes in how the city responds to mental health crises. While Kenney has offered to keep police department funding flat from the current fiscal year, the budget amendment released on Thursday included an increase in police funding of $ 2.3 million.

Kenney proposed a $ 5.18 billion budget in April that would use federal stimulus assistance to help bring the city back to pre-pandemic spending levels, roll back some but not all of the service cuts it made. last year and resume a schedule of small annual cuts in wages and business taxes that were suspended last year.

Lawmakers had their own priorities, and members varied widely on whether or not to cut taxes.

Kenney’s administration has proposed spending just $ 575 million in federal aid in next year’s budget, preserving the majority for years to come, when tax revenues are expected to remain depressed due to the effects persistent pandemic.

Many council members, however, pushed for a more aggressive spending plan, citing urgent needs after a year of increased unemployment and skyrocketing homicide rates.

On taxes, Council was to accept a scaled-down version of Kenney’s proposal to cut the city’s payroll tax, while refusing to pass his corporate tax cuts, as well as other tax reduction proposals from members Cherelle Parker and member Allan Domb.

The council amended the mayor’s tax proposal this week by reducing the size of the cut for suburban commuters who work in the city, while agreeing to his proposed tax cut for Philadelphia residents. The tax bill would reduce the payroll tax for city residents from 3.8712% to 3.8398%. For non-residents, the bill would lower the rate from 3.5019% to 3.4481%.

Together, they will cost the city about $ 23 million in diminished tax revenue next year.


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