Weeks of negotiations between Mayor Jim Kenney and City Council culminated late Thursday night in a vote to approve a city budget that will guide Philadelphia’s recovery from the pandemic while grappling with soaring killings and shootings.
The $5.27 billion budget, which takes effect July 1, awaits final approval next week after Council voted 16-1 to advance it. Lawmakers said the protracted talks were hampered by the fact that Council is still meeting remotely, making it more difficult to find common ground.
In the end, no one got everything they wanted, but lawmakers supported a compromise orchestrated by Council President Darrell L. Clarke.
Council members touted $68 million in new spending for violence prevention programs outside policing as the key to that compromise. But much of that money is a repackaging of programs already funded in Kenney’s initial budget proposal. Only $25.6 million of it was added during negotiations.
Here’s what to know about the final budget:
What does the new anti-violence funding cover?
The $68 million in anti-violence spending for the next fiscal year covers a variety of initiatives, including job development programs and grants for community groups.
Rather than pouring additional money into policing or interventions led by law enforcement, much of the new spending is tied to community services that aim to address the root causes of violence, such as poverty, lack of educational opportunities, or out-of-school programming for youth, and disinvestment in poor, majority-Black neighborhoods.
The city is “expanding the definition of violence prevention,” Kenney spokesperson Deana Gamble said.
The final deal includes an extra $25.6 million added during negotiations. The rest was already in Kenney’s proposed budget but was lumped into the expanded definition of anti-violence spending.
For example, the total $68 million includes restored funding for libraries and Parks and Recreation that was cut last year as the pandemic sent the economy and city finances into free fall.
It also includes Kenney’s proposed 911 triage and co-responder program to change how the city handles mental health crises by sending behavioral or health-care specialists with police on certain 911 calls.
How is that different from before?
The $25.6 million in actual new spending adds $20 million in grant funding for community groups and $5.6 million for the Commerce Department to spend on programs such as workforce development.
The rest was essentially a repackaging of programs already in Kenney’s proposal, but is still more than what the city spent on violence prevention during the fiscal year that ends after this month.
Lawmakers touted the funding as a shift in the city’s approach to violence prevention, one that doesn’t just pour money into the Police Department. Clarke said it’s not just a one-time boost and would become an annual piece of the city budget.
Councilmember Curtis Jones Jr., one of 13 lawmakers who pushed for $100 million in new anti-violence spending, said it’s significant that the city is now focusing on resources for youth and jobs as a means of preventing violent crime.
“We are working toward looking at what works in our communities and bringing it to scale,” he said at a Thursday news conference announcing the compromise.
What else changed from Kenney’s original budget proposal?
Council added about $89 million in spending to the budget Kenney proposed in April, encompassing various projects and programs.
Lawmakers bumped up support for the Land Bank, which manages the disposition of Philadelphia’s thousands of vacant city-owned lots, adding $6.5 million to its budget.
On arts and culture funding, which Kenney cut deeply in 2020 and proposed partially restoring this year, Council went a bit further, adding another $500,000 to the Cultural Fund for a total of $2.5 million.
Council also allocated $5 million for arts grants and added $420,000 for staffing costs at the Office of Arts, Culture & Creative Economy. Council gave the African American Museum of Philadelphia a $300,000 boost, for a total of $800,000 in city funding, and added $250,000 to the new Citizens Police Oversight Commission, which now has a $2.15 million budget.
Did Council approve Kenney’s tax-cut proposals?
Partially. Council adopted a slimmed-down version of the mayor’s proposed wage tax cut, which was not a large cut to begin with. But lawmakers rejected his push to lower the Business Income and Receipts Tax.
The wage tax on city residents will shrink from 3.8712% to 3.8398%, which will cost the city $10.6 million in diminished tax revenues next year. For nonresidents, the cut is from 3.5019% to 3.4481%, at a cost of $12.4 million.
Council approved the tax cut in a voice vote, making it difficult to know exactly who voted for or against the measure. But Council’s trio of progressives — Kendra Brooks, Helen Gym, and Jamie Gauthier — voted against it.
Lawmakers also rejected two tax-cut proposals from their colleagues. Councilmember Cherelle Parker, the Democratic majority leader, abandoned her bid to cut the parking tax days before the budget deal was finalized. Councilmember Allan Domb pushed unsuccessfully late Thursday to lower the tax on business’ net profits.
Domb’s measure was defeated in a 12-5 vote.
”This is the time to tackle what’s holding us back,” he said. “The current tax structure is failing our city and our residents and our businesses.”
Councilmember Maria Quiñones-Sánchez said she supported Domb’s commitment to reforming business taxes, but said it’s not the right time.
”This budget is about an equitable recovery,” she said. “It’s about investing in people. It’s about investing in our Philadelphians.”