Philly Controller says city can afford firefighters contract

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter again is appealing a contract awarded to city firefighters by an arbitrator.

One city official says it’s time to stop fighting and start paying for the contract.

The Nutter administration says Philadelphia can’t afford the contract, but Controller Alan Butkovitz says no matter what happens, the city has to pay the firefighters and putting it off just runs up an unpaid bill.

“They are in arrears $87 million on a bill that they know they have to pay, and their answers is ‘How about we don’t pay it some more,'” said Butkovitz.  “In Washington we are dealing with this on a very large basis. The federal government can’t do it but the city government doesn’t have the power to run up deficits like that but that’s what they are doing.”

The firefighters union and city can’t even agree on how much the contract would cost. Part of the difference is the city budget assumed the new contract would save money and then it came in more expensive.

Mayor Nutter says he will continue to fight.

“We’re basically halfway through the year is a significant amount of money, we simply cannot afford it,” said Nutter.

So far, the firefighters have won each round in court.

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