Mayor Nutter and City Council could reach a deal on the city's budget Thursday that would close a deficit as big as $150 million, sources on both sides of the negotiations said Wednesday.
Although the outlines of the deal were still fluid late Wednesday, the package seems certain to include a property-tax increase - possibly as high as 9.9 percent - as well as a new tax on cigars and smokeless tobacco, and increased fees for trash collection for small businesses.
The big sticking point, as it has been for weeks, is Nutter's proposed tax on sugary drinks.
Though there appears to be little support for the two-cents-per-ounce tax Nutter called for, the levy may have a fighting chance at a lower rate.
Council sources said the Nutter administration - which is fighting hard for the tax - would settle for a tax of 0.75 cents per ounce, which would raise about $14.4 million next year and $28.8 million in later years.
"We're running out of runway," said Councilman Curtis Jones Jr., who said he remained undecided about the sugary-drink tax. "But I think we're almost there."
Jones is among Council members who would prefer not to adopt the tax, but he is willing to consider it to avoid the sort of service cuts that steeper spending reductions would require.
So far, the Nutter administration has agreed to $50 million in spending reductions, much of it in prisons and other areas unlikely to be noticed by typical city residents.
Council sources said Nutter was refusing to make further cuts without a sugary-drink tax. The mayor - who has made significant spending reductions over the last year and a half - has repeatedly said that further cuts threaten to erode services to an unacceptable level.
While some on Council, such as Republican Brian O'Neill and Democrat Bill Green, would prefer steeper cuts to the tax increases, they do not seem to have the support of a majority of their colleagues.
To finish up the budget before the end of May, Council will need to agree on its array of revenue increases by the end of business Thursday.
Majority Leader Marian B. Tasco said Council would begin Thursday's session as usual, then break for a recess and huddle in groups as a final deal is worked out. The session would resume once a deal is done, Tasco said.
Although it is possible Thursday could end without a budget accord, Tasco said she thought that was unlikely.
"You're not going to change any minds by waiting for another week. It's time to end all this drama," Tasco said.
Also Wednesday, Common Pleas Court President Judge Pamela Pryor Dembe announced that she would turn over $3 million to the city, part of the $55 million discovered during an audit of the Clerk of Quarter Sessions.
The clerk's office, with 110 employees, maintains court records, staffs courtrooms, and collects and invests bail money and fines in criminal cases. After evidence surfaced of shoddy record-keeping and other problems in that office, Nutter moved to abolish it, and it is being merged with the Philadelphia courts system.
The Nutter administration said it had expected the funds and thus had already included the $3 million in its budget projections.