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Philadelphia is projected to end Fiscal Year 2020 with just $29 million in its general fund balance. Photo: Nigel Thompson/ AL DÍA News
Philadelphia is projected to end Fiscal Year 2020 with just $29 million in its general fund balance. Photo: Nigel Thompson/ AL DÍA News

Philly could have a $450 million budget gap and needs help to prioritize

Before Mayor Jim Kenney presents a Fiscal Year 2022 budget to City Council in April, the city is asking for resident feedback.

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Following 2020, Philadelphia is facing what its Finance Director Rob Dubow called “years of budget stress” in a recent press release from the Mayor’s Office, as the entire country’s economy slowly recovers from the downturn caused by COVID-19 and its subsequent shutdowns.

According to its Quarterly City Managers Report released on Feb. 16, Philadelphia could have a budget gap of $450 million heading into Fiscal Year 2022.

The gap is projected thanks to a significant dropoff in tax revenues realized across the city.

Philadelphia is also expected to end Fiscal Year 2020 with only $29 million in its fund balance. That’s compared to $438 million at the end of 2019.

To help, the city will realize $76 million in CARES Act funding, but it will be predominantly used for ongoing response to COVID-19, such as designating more quarantine and isolation spaces, creating a surge nursing home, and providing more PPE.

It’s also waiting on more funding for local government as part of President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill that has yet to pass Congress.

Regardless of the new funding, which is still on an undetermined timeline, city budget leaders say tough decisions still lie ahead for Philadelphia’s fiscal future.

“Unfortunately, as we work with the City’s economists to look ahead, the picture for the coming budget is bleak,” said Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney in a press release about the potential $450 million gap.

To help piece together the budget, the city is asking residents to pitch in and make themselves heard during the process. 

The Budget Office is administering a 10-minute online survey for Philadelphians to share how they think the city should prioritize spending heading into the 2022 Fiscal Year.

The surveys are available in English, Spanish, Vietnamese and Chinese.

They can be submitted until Feb. 28, 2021.

“We need diverse voices and insights to develop a spending plan that reflects the needs of our community,” said Budget Director Marisa Waxman in a press release. “Using a new survey for residents to provide input on budget priorities and other channels, we aim to address racial disparities and institutional racism perpetuated by prior budget decisions — even as we have fewer resources available than in the past.”

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