Philadelphians will decide next week whether the city should borrow $185 million for government buildings, streets and sanitation, parks and recreation, and more, one of three ballot questions before voters in Tuesday’s general election.
Rob Dubow, the city’s finance director, said passage of the ballot question is important for Philadelphia’s infrastructure. The money borrowed would also help fund transportation and museums, as well as economic and community development.
These types of ballot questions typically pass, said Pat Christmas, policy director at the local government watchdog group Committee of Seventy.
“What’s certainly true is that if the city were not able to borrow on a fairly regular basis to invest in this infrastructure, that would be problematic," he said. “So there’s no doubt in this bond issuance, there’s going to be funds made available for important stuff that the city does need.”
The projects funded by the new debt may bleed into different fiscal years, but the $185 million is intended to support what’s outlined in the the city’s 2020 budget, said Peilin Chen, deputy budget director for capital projects. That includes purchases of new vehicles, the city’s Rebuild initiative, Indego bike sharing, covering part of I-95, and repaving streets.
More than a quarter of the borrowing is “directly related to departments and facilities that help ensure public safety and justice," according to the capital program’s executive summary.
Mayor Jim Kenney, who has previously highlighted repaving and potholes as “major concerns,” is investing more than $200 million in a six-year program that aims to repave 131 miles of roadways annually.
“We have a lot of big projects that were underway, and we knew that this would happen because as construction cycles go, they tend to ramp up over time, and that’s why capital projects are budgeted in a longterm sort of structure," Chen said.
Dubow said he’s “optimistic” that voters will approve the measure Tuesday.
Voters will be asked to decide on a change to the city’s Home Rule Charter concerning contract bidding, as well as on a controversial statewide constitutional amendment concerning victims’ rights.
The charter change would boost the threshold amount for a formal bidding process on city contracts from $34,000 to $75,000, and $100,000 for local businesses. That amount is closer to the threshold seen in other major cities, according to the Committee of Seventy, and looks to make the contract process for local businesses a bit easier. Specifically, it asks:
The last question asks Pennsylvanians to decide on Marsy’s Law — the proposed constitutional amendment that guarantees crime victims and their families certain rights. Some say its implementation could result in unintended consequences. Here’s how it will look on the ballot: