EVERYDAY PEOPLE: Philadelphia Mayor Kenney’s Post-COVID Budget

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Last week, Mayor Jim Kenney unveiled the Budget That the ‘Rona Built. And no one, including him, has been very thrilled with it.

Some of the cuts in this proposed budget have taken center stage.

The Office for the Arts & the Creative Economy? Gone!

Wanna go swimming in a City pool this year? Ain’t happening. In fact, a bunch of part-time City employees – and eventually even some full-time ones – are going to be looking for new jobs.

Looking forward to that reduction in your wage tax? Nope.

Hoping to go to the Community College of Philadelphia on an Octavius Catto scholarship? Gonna have to wait for that.

Were you looking forward to cleaner streets through a street sweeping program? That’s not happening this year either.

In fact, just about everything that Mayor Kenney proposed in a $5.2 billion 2021 budget plan that could only be described as optimistic back in March when he proposed it, has gone away thanks to a $650 million hole ripped into the City’s coffers by the coronavirus.

In addition to the City getting less in taxes because not many people are physically doing things here, Philadelphia is waiting to see what the Genius in Chief, otherwise known as the only person I’ve every known off the top of my head that has managed to go belly-up operating a casino, does in terms of federal reimbursement for some of the expenses the City has had to incur due to the ’Rona.

When it came to the cuts, Kenney emphasized keeping the city safe, healthy and educated, which is why there weren’t a lot of cuts made to health centers, Philadelphia’s Police and Fire Departments, or the allocation to the School District of Philadelphia.

But it’s how the city has chosen to maintain that allocation to the School District that might not get past City Council. Kenney has proposed an increase in the property taxes going to the district.

Now, for those of you who don’t know how tax allocations work, not all of the money that the city gets in property taxes goes into city government coffers. A significant percentage of every tax dollar goes to the School District, which is why most of the people advocating for the end of the 10-year tax abatement are education activists.

I have friends who work in Council offices and what they’re telling me is that since this budget was announced, the tax increase is the main thing they’ve been hearing from constituents about. Why can’t you cut something else? they say.

If there’s anything left to cut, Council is going to have to show him where it is, Kenney said.

“Council has the responsibility to show me where we can get the money to pay for schools is going to come from [if we don’t implement the property tax increase],” he said. “Education is one of the most important things we can do for our kids. I refuse to go back to 2008 where we cut everything, and our kids lost ground. We have to move forward.”

He’s probably right about that, and the folks in the arts here in Philly would probably agree.

But studies show that kids who have access to arts and culture programs like music, dance, and the fine arts, do better in school.

Hopefully, we can come to some meeting of the minds.

Or maybe, those of us who still have a few bucks might want to pitch in to our favorite arts institution. Just saying.

Next time: How the handling of the coronavirus has showcased just how expendable the poor, the elderly and people of color are to America.

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