Philadelphia to absorb $8 million in papal costs

 Pope Francis delivered Mass on the Parkway in Philadelphia Sunday, September 27, 2015. (Kevin Cook/for NewsWorks)

Pope Francis delivered Mass on the Parkway in Philadelphia Sunday, September 27, 2015. (Kevin Cook/for NewsWorks)

The City of Philadelphia’s final costs for Pope Francis’ visit are in.

The mayor and city controller have differing opinions on how much of the bill should be picked up by the Catholic Church. 

Mayor Michael Nutter says Philadelphia’s protocol for big events is to make organizers pay for the “day of event” costs, not the preparation or infrastructure improvements.  He says that’s why the city is absorbing $8 million spent on the papal visit.

“Much of what happened in the days leading up to was the preparatory work some of what was the city beautifying sprucing up to some extent,” Nutter said. “Some of the materials and supplies purchased for the Papal visit were not used, many of which will actually be used for the DNC.”

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

City Controller Alan Butkovitz says the World Meeting was supposed to pick up all costs of the event and the contract should have said that.

“I don’t think they worked it out until a couple of days before the event when the city didn’t have any negotiating leverage,” Butkovitz said.

The mayor defended the decision.

“This is the standard kinds of methodology and procedure we use for these type of events,” he said.

However in the weeks leading up to the papal visit, Nutter’s administration was not so clear about this.  Nuter’s chief of staff Everett Gillison said at the time a contract was signed about the vist that the World Meeting of Families would have to pay city expenses, even if they were higher than anticipated.

“World Meeting of Families knows that this is all an estimate, it can go higher or lower. We’re pretty conservative … most of the times we always overshoot,” Gillison said. “I will anticipate … we will come in under what we have anticipated.”

No matter what, Gillison said then, the city won’t be saddled with the costs of putting on the massive event.

“World Meeting of Families is responsible under the contract,” Gillison said.

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal