Budget deal shifts extra $14 million away from PPD

Mayor Jim Kenney, who served on Council for 23 years before being elected mayor in 2016, said it was “the most difficult budget process” of his career.
PHOTO: Jack Tomczuk

Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration and City Council reached a deal late Wednesday night on a budget that shifted millions of dollars away from the Philadelphia Police Department and restored some coronavirus-related cuts to arts programming.

Advocates were critical of what leaders heralded as a $33 million reduction in police funding, amid calls to defund law enforcement following the death of George Floyd and protests against police brutality.

About $14 million was transferred to the Managing Director’s Office as a result of a decision to move crossing guards and the newly-created public safety enforcement officer program out from under the PPD.

The rest of the $33 million was made up of increases Kenney proposed to the police budget on May 1 that were scrapped last week after opposition from Council and the public.

Some activists characterized the funding shift as a small concession, while others deemed it a public relations maneuver.

Kenney said it’s part of a process to move non-crime-related duties from the police department, which is something protesters have been calling for.

“It’s an evolutionary process,” Kenney said Thursday. “I think we’re moving in that direction as a city and as a county.”

Layoffs within the police department are unlikely. It’s expected the PPD will control costs by not bringing on as many cadets as officers who retire and slashing overtime, administration officials said.

Still, Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5, the union representing city officers, denounced the police budget.

“This spending plan will devastate any efforts by the police department to engage and fund numerous community outreach programs,” the FOP said in a statement. “Our political leadership is tone deaf and blind to the realities of public safety in our city by implementing these drastic budget cuts.”

Officials said the department will be able to continue acquiring body cameras, but it’s unlikely all officers will be outfitted with them over the course of the next year.

PPD will also have money to hold implicit bias training, and funding is set aside for a police equity manager, deputy inspector general and citizens oversight commission, according to information provided by Council.

Funding across the board has been tight due to a $749 million budget gap caused by reduced tax revenue as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kenney, who served on Council for 23 years before being elected mayor in 2016, said it was “the most difficult budget process” of his career.

The city was able to generate an extra $80 million through restructuring pension bond debt. It also saved about $5 million by not approving a planned increase to the Philadelphia Fire Department’s budget.

An increase in the commuter wage and net profit tax is expected to bring in an additional $17.2 million, and a parking tax hike is projected to generate $8.5 million. Out-of-city workers who make $50,000 will pay an extra $27 a year, according to a Council news release.

Both tax increases have a sunset clause and will return to the current rate next year.

Council also approved a plan to form a committee to examine the possibility of reducing the parking tax to 17 percent during next year’s budget cycle.

Kenney’s finance team said they are still working to calculate the plan’s projected fund balance, or the money left over in case of emergencies.

The $4.9 billion budget includes $1 million for the Philadelphia Cultural Fund and fully restores the city’s funding to the African American Museum. Both line items were zeroed out in Kenney’s revised budget proposal.

The plan devotes $20 million to the city’s Housing Trust Fund and $1.4 million for adult education programs.

Kenney said he was disappointed that hundreds of millions had to be slashed from his original proposed budget, which he introduced back in March.

In addition, 454 city workers have been laid off due to the cuts. More than half of those let go were seasonal employees of the Free Library of Philadelphia and the Department of Parks and Recreation.

“It pains me that this budget reduces some city services and eliminates hundreds of jobs,” the mayor said.

Council is set to hold a final vote on the municipal budget on Thursday, June 25.

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