Mayor Michael Nutter detailed on Thursday what he said will be the deepest cuts in public services for more than half a century, needed to balance the fiscal 2010 budget and the city's financial plan for the next five years.
This plan would be the most radical, painful and unprecedented dismantling of City government since the Home Rule Charter created City government in 1951, Nutter said in a statement.
The revised budget, triggered by state lawmakers' refusal so far to approve budget-balancing measures, would, if implemented, reduce the work force by about 3,000 positions, close libraries, parks and recreation centers, and shutter some city departments.
Philadelphia, the most populous city in Pennsylvania with about 1.5 million inhabitants, has been hit hard by the recession, which has sent revenue tumbling as welfare costs rise. The pain that Philadelphia is facing is part of the recession's fallout on major U.S. cities, as well as on counties and most state governments.
The cuts, previously announced in outline but now described in more detail, include the elimination of positions for 929 police officers, 120 firefighters, 520 recreation department jobs, 490 library staff members, and 112 health workers. The actual number of layoffs won't be known until the city evaluates which of its approximately 23,000 positions are filled.
Layoff notices are scheduled to be issued on September 18, and layoffs would be complete by October 2, said Luke Butler, a spokesman for Mayor Nutter.
Six fire-engine companies would be deactivated, residential trash collection reduced to bi-weekly from the current weekly service, and bulbs will be removed from 4,000 street lights as the city eliminates some maintenance contracts.
TAX MORE OR SPEND LESS?
Agencies scheduled to close their doors under the cuts including the Commerce Department, the City Planning Commission, and the Fairmount Park Commission.
Pennsylvania is one of three states that have operated without a budget for fiscal 2010 since the new year started on July 1.
Lawmakers have been unable to agree on measures to balance the budget, with Republicans rejecting Democratic proposals to raise income tax and insisting on spending cuts alone.
To close the budget gap for the coming year, the city needs to raise $700 million with a proposed increase of 1 percentage point in the city sales tax, a deferral of pension payments, and extending the amortization period on unfunded pension liabilities to 30 years from 20 years.
Those measures require approval by state lawmakers who have not completed their discussions of the reforms. A bill containing the measures was approved by the Democrat-controlled House, but has not been passed by the Republican-controlled Senate.
Nutter has urged the Senate Finance Committee, which is considering the bill, to pass it without amendments.
But Erik Arneson, a spokesman for Senate Republican leader Dominic Pileggi, said the panel would very likely attach at least one amendment on pension reform when it holds its next scheduled meeting on August 24. The amended bill would then go to the full Senate on August 26, and, if passed, to the full House, whose approval would then send the bill to Gov. Ed Rendell.
The sooner the bill becomes law, the greater the chances of averting the cuts, Butler said.