Northeast Times

Mayor Nutter finally gives budget address after union workers drown out his speech

May­or Nut­ter pro­posed set­ting the city’s prop­erty tax rate at 1.32 per­cent, high­er than the 1.25 per­cent rate that had been spec­u­lated. He also in­cluded a $15,000 homestead ex­emp­tion for those who live in their prop­er­ties. The may­or tried to de­liv­er his an­nu­al budget ad­dress in City Coun­cil cham­bers, but pro­test­ers shout­ing and whist­ling in the bal­cony drowned him out. He re­tired to his large con­fer­ence room to read the budget ad­dress.

     Phil­adelphia May­or Mi­chael Nut­ter today pro­posed a $3.75 bil­lion budget for 2014 and pro­posed set­ting the city’s prop­erty tax rate at 1.32 per­cent, which is high­er than the 1.25 per­cent that had been spec­u­lated.

     He said there would be no tax in­creases and no cuts in ser­vices.

     Prop­erty tax own­ers would mul­tiply the tax rate by their new prop­erty as­sess­ments to fig­ure their 2014 tax bills. A prop­erty as­sessed at $100,000 would have a prop­erty tax bill of $1,320.

     But the City Coun­cil has to vote on the budget and could set a dif­fer­ent tax rate.

     The may­or’s budget pro­pos­al in­cludes a $15,000 Homestead Ex­emp­tion for people who live in their homes. He also set aside $30 mil­lion in oth­er prop­erty tax re­lief for res­id­ents.

     The may­or pro­posed a spend­ing in­crease of $99 mil­lion com­pared to this year’s budget. The new spend­ing would in­clude $69 mil­lion set aside to pay pen­sion costs for city em­ploy­ees and salar­ies for po­lice. Among the city’s four ma­jor mu­ni­cip­al em­ploy­ee uni­ons, only the po­lice have a con­tract. Three oth­er city uni­ons — AF­SCME Dis­trict Coun­cils 33 and 47 and Fire­fight­ers Loc­al 22 — are work­ing un­der ex­pired con­tracts.

     Nut­ter pro­jects that prop­erty taxes will gen­er­ate about $1.2 bil­lion in rev­en­ue, with 54 per­cent dir­ec­ted to the city’s school dis­trict. Those fig­ures would be the same as this year. The school dis­trict’s por­tion of prop­erty tax rev­en­ue is sep­ar­ate from the city’s fisc­al budget and is not part of Nut­ter’s $3.75 bil­lon spend­ing plan for 2014.

     The cur­rent prop­erty tax rate is 9.71 per­cent, but un­der the may­or’s Ac­tu­al Value Ini­ti­at­ive, prop­er­ties were re­as­sessed at mar­ket val­ues, not at the par­tial val­ues un­der the old sys­tem. The new tax rate will be set lower to gen­er­ate the same amount of rev­en­ue.

     The may­or tried to de­liv­er his an­nu­al budget ad­dress this morn­ing in City Coun­cil cham­bers but was drowned out by pro­test­ers in the bal­cony who whistled and chanted loudly. Fire­fight­ers and AF­SCME mem­bers were among those join­ing the protest. The fire­fight­ers are up­set over the may­or’s de­cision to ap­peal an ar­bit­rat­or’s con­tract award to city fire­fight­ers.

     Coun­cil went in­to re­cess, and Nut­ter re­tired to his large con­fer­ence room, where ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials and em­ploy­ees greeted him with a stand­ing ova­tion be­fore he de­livered the budget speech.

   He said he had put $26 mil­lion aside from the city’s gen­er­al fund to pay “fu­ture labor ob­lig­a­tions” for city work­ers rep­res­en­ted by AF­SCME, the fire­fight­ers and deputy sher­iffs.

     In city coun­cil, mem­bers ap­proved un­an­im­ously a res­ol­u­tion in­tro­duced by Coun­cil­man Dav­id Oh that called upon the Nut­ter Ad­min­is­tra­tion to pay $66 mil­lion in ad­di­tion­al wages, pen­sion be­ne­fits and health care be­ne­fits to fire­fight­ers, who have been work­ing un­der the terms of an ex­pired con­tract since 2009. Fire­fight­ers were awar­ded a new con­tract in 2010 through bind­ing ar­bit­ra­tion, but the Nut­ter Ad­min­is­tra­tion has ap­pealed the con­tract re­peatedly and not honored the terms of the award. Oh re­ferred to the $66 mil­lion as “past due” to fire­fight­ers.

     Fur­ther, Oh’s res­ol­u­tion called upon the ad­min­is­tra­tion to set aside ad­di­tion­al fund­ing in case the sides reach a con­tract res­ol­u­tion and ad­ded costs to the city ex­ceed $66 mil­lion.

     The money could come from what Oh said is a $114 mil­lion sur­plus in the gen­er­al fund.

      In un­re­lated busi­ness, coun­cil passed a bill re­quir­ing all private em­ploy­ers in the city to award sick time to em­ploy­ees at a rate of one hour leave for every 40 hours worked.  Coun­cil­man Bill Green­lee was the primary spon­sor. Coun­cil passed the same meas­ure last year, but Nut­ter ve­toed it. This time, the bill passed by an 11-6 mar­gin, one af­firm­at­ive vote short of a po­ten­tial veto over­ride. Nut­ter re­fused to say if he planned an­oth­er veto.

     Nut­ter, in his budget ad­dress, also high­lighted spend­ing on city ser­vices in fisc­al 2014 and bey­ond, in­clud­ing $5 mil­lion over two years to “mod­ern­ize” Free Lib­rary branches. He ex­pects that private-sec­tor con­trib­ut­ors will match the city’s in­vest­ment. In 2014, Nut­ter plans to spend $1 mil­lion to ex­pand the op­er­at­ing hours of branch lib­rar­ies, spe­cific­ally to be­ne­fit young people, job seekers and seni­or cit­izens.

     The may­or also in­tends to spend more than $600,000 in 2014 to make com­puters and com­puter classes more avail­able to Phil­adelphi­ans, and to in­vest an ad­di­tion­al $1 mil­lion in the Com­munity Col­lege of Phil­adelphia to help off­set rising tu­ition costs. ••

On the web

To view video foot­age of the uni­on protests in City Coun­cil cham­bers and of May­or Nut­ter’s re­turn to his own re­cep­tion room, vis­it the North­east Times You­Tube site, www.you­tube.com/user/north­east­times

You can reach and at wkenny@bsmphilly.com.

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