Kenney offers painless Philly spending plan

 Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney will present his spending plan for the next budget year Thursday. (NewsWorks file photo)

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney will present his spending plan for the next budget year Thursday. (NewsWorks file photo)

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney will present his annual budget address to City Council Thursday, offering a spending plan with no tax increases and modest increases in targeted city services.

The proposal would add about 600 full-time positions to the current budget, bringing the city’s general fund workforce to about 23,400.

“The services we are expanding are things that were urgent and crucial,” city Finance Director Rob Dubow told reporters in a briefing Wednesday. “I don’t want you coming away with the impression that this is a budget that’s really expansive …  these are really necessities we were funding.”

Among the expanded services Kenney proposes:

30 more paramedics and 30 more firefighters
20 more restaurant inspectors and supervisors
a $900,000 increase in lead-remediation efforts
10 new Child Welfare lawyers and an increase in payment rates for foster families
$950,000 for the Department of Licenses and Inspections for demolition and quality control

Dubow said the service increases can be paid for through the normal growth in city taxes and are relatively small compared with the size of the city budget — over $4.3 billion.

The plan includes small reductions in city wage and business taxes and no increase in other taxes, though the controversial sweetened-beverage tax is still in place and under legal challenge.

One thing the budget doesn’t do is plan for any impact from changes in federal or state policy, such as repeal of the Affordable Care Act or the potential cutoff of funds as punishment for Philadelphia’s “sanctuary city” policy.

Dubow said it didn’t make sense to include a “Plan B” in the budget.

“There are many different scenarios for what could happen, [with] the feds or state, so we are not pre-judging any of that,” he said. “That said, we do have a working group that meets every week to kind of keep track of what’s going on and keep our eyes on it.”

The city still plans to further expand pre-K programs and embark on a massive plan to rebuild city libraries, parks and recreation centers, but not until the legal challenge to the beverage tax is resolved.

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