City budget to go down to the July 1 deadline

Residents who haven’t been following the budget battle moving its way through City Hall will no doubt take notice if an agreement is not reached by its quickly-approaching June 30 deadline. In that case, the city will be stripped of its spending power, including the ability to make payroll and provide services ranging from trash pickup to public safety.

A source familiar with city government called the apparent lack of consensus between Council members and Mayor Michael Nutter’s administration an “aberration.” The two remaining sticking points are real estate taxation and raising additional funds for the embattled school district, with Nutter pushing for a property tax overhaul that would generate $94 million in revenue for education.

City Council last week gave preliminary approval to delay property tax reform, instead voting to raise $40 million through a combination of hikes to the real estate tax and in the use and occupancy tax levied on businesses.

Nutter would not say whether he would veto a budget, which would make it nearly impossible to meet the cutoff. “I don’t know even when the Council is, at this moment, going to vote on the budget,” he said Thursday. “Possibly, it could be next week — that’s a lifetime in this business. I never make pronouncements about what I’m going to sign or not sign or anything like that.”

Facing criticism from powerful business lobbyists on one side and members of the school district’s blue-collar union on the other, Council on Thursday scheduled an additional June 28 meeting to their legislative calendar.

Zack Stahlberg of political watchdog Committee of Seventy said that the back and forth is not unusual. “They’re all politicians — most of them are of the same party — they can negotiate a deal,” he said. “I’m not even sure I would put this on the high end of the scale of contentiousness.”

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