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Controller says city can shave deficit by $400 million

City Controller Alan Butkovitz said this morning that the city's $1-plus billion five-year budget deficit could be cut by 41 percent if the Nutter administration follows his recommendations.

Though Butkovitz identified a few relatively small spending cuts, he focused on the city's fee collection efforts, which he says could generate up to $68 million in new revenue each year, plus an additional $73.9 million in one-time collections.

Butkovitz's key recommendations include:

  1. Increasing ambulance reimbursement fees and improving Fire Department billing collections: $46.1 million a year.

  2. Collect delinquent court fines for a onetime benefit of $69.8 million.

  3. Improve collection of demolition service fees in the Department of Licenses and Inspections: $20 million a year.

  4. Collect all $117 million in delinquent fees owed to the Water Department. Water revenue does not go into the city's General Fund, and thus this would not help the city close its $1-plus billion five-year deficit.

"That the city is letting millions of dollars slip through the cracks during these extremely difficult financial times is very troubling," Butkovitz said.

None of the recommendations were new. Rather, Butkovitz compiled recommendations he has made in past audits of city departments. At a press conference this morning, he acknowledged that it is likely some unknown percentage of the delinquent bills and fees owed to the city are noncollectable (the debtors are dead for instance, or the debtor is a company that has gone out of business).

The Nutter administration has also already begun stepping up collection efforts as part of its response to the budget crisis, though Butkovitz said the administration's collection targets seemed small to him.

Update: Read the report here.

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