THREE THOUSAND municipal workers will receive layoff notices Sept. 18 if the city does not soon get budget relief from the state, Mayor Nutter said yesterday, revealing the time frame for his "Plan C" budget.
"This is not a good morning in the city of Philadelphia," Nutter said.
The doomsday budget will be enacted if the city doesn't get approval from the state for a temporary sales-tax increase and some changes to payments into the pension fund. Without those approvals, the city must cut $700 million over five years.
As part of the process to implement Plan C, Nutter provided the revised budget yesterday to City Council. Layoff lists will be completed today for city departments, and other measures - like halting lending in libraries - will start soon in preparation for the plan.
Still, whether the plan is actually implemented hinges on Harrisburg lawmakers. The state House of Representatives has approved legislation - House Bill 1828 - which gives the city the requested items. Now the bill is in the state Senate, where it could pass as early as Aug. 26. But the state senators may tack on amendments that could drag out the process.
And time is running out. Because the city is almost two months into the fiscal year without approval from Harrisburg, Nutter must submit the contingency budget by the end of the month to the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority, the state agency that oversees the city budget. The plan would go into effect in mid-September.
"The crisis is real," Nutter said. "The impact of inaction will be devastating. The clock is ticking."
Nutter is requesting that City Council waive any meetings and approve the revised plan, a move that Council President Anna Verna is currently contemplating.
Much of the detail in Plan C has been reported before. Roughly 3,000 city workers will lose their jobs, including hundreds of police officers and firefighters. Libraries and recreation centers will be closed. And funds for the court system will be slashed. But the full plan shows exactly how the cuts will unfold.
Over the five years, the bulk of the cuts come in the first two years, when the city's cash-flow problems are most severe.
For example, the Free Library, Fairmount Park and the Recreation Department will be cut back drastically this fiscal year and next, before funding returns in the third year of the plan. But for the next two years, the park will have just 22 staffers, the library will have 138 and Recreation will have 28.
Nutter stressed that the revised plan was not an empty threat. But when pressed for details on how a courts shutdown would unfold, Nutter hedged.
"This is not something that is going to happen overnight," he said, asking reporters to instead focus on the city workers about to get layoff notices.
Nutter also scoffed at a question on whether his budget, passed in May, relied too heavily on Harrisburg's help during a difficult financial year.
"It was not inappropriate to make the requests of Harrisburg that we've made," Nutter said. He repeatedly stressed that he hoped that the state Senate would pass the legislation without amendments.
State Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, a Republican from Delaware County, yesterday said that the Senate is considering amendments to "ensure the future solvency of the [pension] plan."
Pileggi said sending an amended bill back to the state House could add as little as a day to the process, if the House moves quickly.
Members of City Council, which also approved the budget, were largely absent yesterday. Councilman Curtis Jones Jr. was the only member to appear at Nutter's news conference, although others sent staffers.
Funding for City Council, along with the other independently elected "row offices," will not be changed under the revised plan. Asked if he had called on those officials to make cuts, Nutter said that he was in talks with the other leaders. "We are in constant conversation with them," Nutter said. "We ask them all the time."