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City notifies social-service agencies of stop in funds

When City Council twice in recent months blocked Mayor Street's late request for millions in new funding, he vowed that there would be consequences.

When City Council twice in recent months blocked Mayor Street's late request for millions in new funding, he vowed that there would be consequences.

What the mayor meant is becoming clear.

Lacking the $34 million sought, Street's Department of Human Services commissioner, Arthur Evans, has mailed "suspension notices" to 200 social-services providers, many of whose work relates to foster care, group-home situations, and residential treatment centers.

Dated Dec. 18, the notices state that payments on current contracts will end April 30, two months before anticipated.

And they indirectly lay blame at the doorstep of Council and Mayor-elect Michael Nutter.

In October and again in November, Council refused to consider Street's request for the additional money to be transferred into the agency's budget from other funds.

Members said they were acting on Nutter's request to wait until his term begins and because Street did not share with them details of how the money would be spent.

Evans, in his letters, blames a "delay in an anticipated transfer ordinance" for the suspension.

"We expect City Council and the incoming mayor to take action in early 2008 to address this technical issue by adding the necessary appropriations," Evans wrote, "but we have decided in the interests of transparency and avoidance of potential disruption to notify you of the future suspension of certain services and programs."

He also noted the suspensions may be rescinded well before April 30.

Nutter yesterday lashed out at the administration's move. "The only purpose is to create hysteria in the provider community, and to try to force my hand," he said. "I'm not going to be forced into anything."

Evans declined to return a reporter's phone call, but released a brief statement that largely reiterated his letter. That statement also noted, in spite of what he told providers, that they "will continue to get paid and this will not cause any disruption of services."

In a statement, Council President Anna C. Verna said, "The mayor should never have entered into contracts in the first place if he didn't have the money to fund them through the fiscal year. This represents poor fiscal stewardship."

Separately, Nutter yesterday said he had intervened to stop Street's last-minute move to take over $8 million worth of social-services contracts from the Philadelphia School District.

Street administration officials have been trying to work out deals with about 20 school district providers as a way of relieving the district from some budgetary pressure. The idea is to transfer the burden of the payments to the city from the district. It also is part of a promise that the mayor made in early summer.

But while Street hoped that Council would approve this expenditure, Council refused to consider it, again at Nutter's request.

Street is moving ahead anyway, though the city has not figured out a way to come up with the $8 million. City Budget Director Dianne Reed conceded Thursday that Nutter might be stuck with the bill.

But Nutter said yesterday that after speaking with School Reform Commission Chairwoman Sandra Dungee Glenn, the district "is not going to terminate the contracts."

District spokesman Fernando Gallard confirmed that the two spoke, but said Dungee Glenn could not be reached yesterday.

Street's education secretary, Jacqueline Barnett, said, "That's news to me. . . . Our departments are proceeding to make good on the mayor's promise."

Nutter said he would maintain the city's commitment to give the district an additional $8 million in relief this fiscal year. After he is sworn in on Jan. 7, he said, "I'll deal with that."