‘Back to normalcy’ in city’s ’11 budget

During his annual budget address this morning, Mayor Michael Nutter will tell Philadelphians they won’t face higher taxes or fees this upcoming year. He’ll also states that revenues have stabilized to the point where the city can invest in a new police-recruit class, increase property-assessment services, fund more firefighter overtime and retain probation officers.

What he won’t be able to say is whether his words will matter once Gov. Tom Corbett outlines state funding cuts next week and the federal government soon makes its plans known.

But Nutter spokesman Mark McDonald said this represents a “back to normalcy” moment. In meetings with Council members, the administration said major revenue sources — including the wage tax and sales-tax base — have stabilized to the point where the five-year budget plan includes “modest growth assumptions.” Spending would increase $34 million, or 1 percent of the overall budget compared to 4 percent in Nutter’s first address.

“This is basically a ‘hold steady’ budget,” said a council representative who attended a session. “The administration talking point is ‘Don’t give Harrisburg a map to where they can make cuts.’”

Is it too early for city plans?

Some on City Council questioned the wisdom of making an address before state cuts are unveiled next Tuesday. “We’re really in a holding pattern until then,” said a council member who assesses blame for any losses to Republicans in Harrisburg. “They’re not our cuts, so it’s important to make them own the cuts. It’s all about their priorities.”

Noting that the budget process in the city, state and nation are lengthy, McDonald said, “The mayor is obligated to state his priorities and vision for the city. This budget proposal is that opening statement.”

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