State board postpones vote on Philly mayor’s budget plan

    The Pennsylvania board that rides herd over Philly’s finances decided Tuesday to delay a vote on the city’s five-year plan.

    Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority chairman Sam Katz said the vote was put off because board members still have questions about the city’s underfunded pension system, labor costs and schools.

    He said PICA is understaffed, so an internal report wasn’t provided to board members until late last week. The agency lost two of its four staff members recently.

    “We’re down 50 percent, and it’s a load of work,” he said.

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    Last year, Katz said he would vote against Mayor Michael Nutter’s current plan if the city did not have contracts settled with three of its municipal unions.

    That didn’t happen, but the city did stow away $207 million over the next five years to pay for unresolved labor agreements. District Councils 33 and 47 are still operating without a contract, and the city has unsuccessfully appealed the firefighters’ arbitration award, saying it is too expensive.

    “The first issue is that there is still uncertainty,” said Katz. “Neither the courts nor the negotiating process have yielded a definitive basis for calculating the costs of labor over the next five years.”

    Katz asked city officials how much of the unresolved labor agreements would likely be covered by $207 million.

    “I was confused a little bit by the fact that that seemed like a puzzling question, but we’ll see what comes back from that,” he said.

    Katz wouldn’t say Tuesday whether he would support this year’s plan. If PICA rejects it, that could lead to the city losing about $350 million in state-appropriated funds. He called that a “draconian” consequence.

    “I wish the statute said there were things we could do before that if we disapproved a plan,” he said.

    The PICA board is now expecting to vote on the plan Aug. 20.

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