Philadelphia’s $6.2B budget set for final approval

City Council is set to give its final approval to the 2023-24 spending plan on Thursday

By: - June 13, 2023 10:41 am
Philadelphia City Hall

Philadelphia City Hall (Adobe Stock/The Philadelphia Gay News)

By Stephen Williams

PHILADELPHIA — Not every member of City Council is happy about the $6.2 billion Fiscal Year 2024 budget that received preliminary approval late last week, and included more wage and business tax cuts.

Still, about one-third of the budget approved is earmarked for public safety and quality-of-life issues. Final passage is scheduled for Thursday in Council. If approved, it will then go to Mayor Jim Kenney for his signature. The new fiscal year begins July 1.

Councilmembers Jamie Gauthier, D-3rd District, and Kendra Brooks, at-Large, WFP, voted against the budget

In a joint statement, they said: “These cuts will benefit wealthy companies and make it harder for the City to provide the services that working-class Philadelphians depend on, from after-school child care to affordable public transportation. These tax cuts will cost the City millions in revenue, and will result in less than $20 in annual savings for a low-wage worker in Philadelphia. Instead of leveling the playing field, these cuts deepen the gap between the rich and the rest of us.”

But most councilmembers said the budget is ultimately a compromise and nobody got everything they wanted.

“Overall, I think it’s was a very comprehensive budget,” Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson sai. “It touches on a variety of different areas that are linked to improving the quality of life in the city of Philadelphia, as well as making sure our neighborhoods are safer. For me it’s definitely a step in the right direction.”

For example, $10 million would go for hiring bonuses to address shortages in the police and fire departments, the prison system and other areas. Another $3 million in the budget would go for recruitment of police officers and to further develop the Police Cadet program.

But Johnson said he was able to secure funding for safety and jobs programs, including increases in funding to support an additional 200 positions in the Future Track Programs in the Streets Department, which trains young people for job opportunities and gives them a pathway for long-term employment; a summer jobs program; and funding for mobile mental health response units.

“The No. 1 issue in our city right now is gun violence and we are not going to solve it overnight,” Johnson said. “We have to have a long-term strategy for investing in our young people. We have to find ways to provide opportunities for our young people on the front end, instead of them getting involved in a life of crime and violence.”

When it comes to quality-of-life issues, the budget includes $3 million to clean neighborhood business corridors, $1.5 million to fight illegal dumping, and $1 million to clean vacant lots.

As for taxes, the wage tax on residents would drop from 3.79% to 3.75%. The net income part of the business taxes would decrease from 5.99% to 5.81%

In last year’s budget, the mayor and City Council agreed to incremental tax reductions that would mean $150 million in tax relief in five years. The new cuts approved by Council last week would provide another $24.1 million in relief over five years. The added tax cuts were supported by at-large councilmembers Katherine Gilmore Richardson and Isaiah Thomas.

This will be Kenney’s last budget before his term ends at the end of this year. On Nov. 7, voters will choose between former city and state legislator Cherelle Parker, the Democratic nominee; and David Oh, the Republican nominee and former City Councilmember. Kenney is term limited.

In addition, this will be the last budget for City Council President Darrell Clarke, who is retiring at the end of his term this year.

“The needs of our citizens and residents are great, and City Council is doing what it historically always does — stepping up to the plate to fund programs it believes are worthy and best able to serve citizens and improve their quality of life,” Clarke said.

Stephen Williams is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared.

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