Mar 31, 2022 - News

Breaking down Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney's $5 billion budget plan

Photo illustration of Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney with lines radiating from him.
Photo illustration: Allie Carl/Axios; Photo: Pacific Press/Getty Images

Mayor Jim Kenney is proposing a $5.6 billion budget with no property tax increases and a boost in funding for violence prevention efforts.

Driving the news: City officials gave insight into Kenney's plan to increase spending by more than 5% during a budget briefing Wednesday.

  • The mayor will give his budget address to City Council Thursday morning.

Why it matters: This is Philly's third spending plan during the pandemic era, which continues to hamper city revenues.

  • Yes, but: The city reaped $1.4 billion in federal pandemic aid last year, which continues to help replace lost revenues. And Kenney wants to funnel $335 million of that federal aid into his budget.

State of play: Kenney's plan is fueled by an expected 5.7% rise in revenues compared to current year estimates, officials said Wednesday.

  • City departments would see flat or increased spending in the proposal.
  • Meanwhile, all revenues are expected to rise besides the realty transfer tax.

Between the lines: Property tax revenue is expected to tick up 4.5% in Kenney's budget — even without a tax hike.

  • That's because new property assessments are coming for the first time in two fiscal years, during which home values have spiked.
  • "There is a chance people will see their assessments increase," Dubow warned.

Of note: The Kenney administration has said it would consider working with legislators on property tax relief efforts under certain circumstances.

By the numbers: Under the budget plan, violence prevention spending would rise to $184 million, an increase of 18% over last year.

  • The Philadelphia Free Library would get $9.7 million in new funding, which would help stabilize five-day service.
  • The city's school district and the Community College of Philadelphia would see funding bumps — $14 million and $2 million, respectively.
  • The police department would reap funding increases for new technologies ($2.7 million) and upgrades to its forensic science capabilities ($515,000).
  • The fire department would see $1.4 million more funding for the 911 triage and co-responder program.

What they're saying: Rob Dubow, the city's finance director, said the budget would make investments to help with pandemic recovery, but he warned that the city still faces uncertainty around the economy.

  • "We're still wary of our financial future," he said.

Of concern: A quarter of the city's pre-pandemic wage tax revenues from nonresidents is estimated to be lost. The wage tax is the city's largest revenue generator.

  • The budget has an estimated $152.8 million fund balance, or surplus, which is significantly lower than best practices.

Plus: The city continues to trail the region and nation in job recovery.

What's ahead: Legislative budget hearings will kick off next week and run through late May.

  • City Council has until July 1 to adopt a spending plan.
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