A City Hall blunder will likely delay a $65 million bond referendum, but it also offers a chance for another review of all capital spending.
City Council approved an ordinance for the referendum last month, and Mayor Nutter signed it the next day. Only one problem - apparently no one sent it to election officials.
By the time the mistake was caught, it was too late to correct. Election officials were worried about fouling up the entire ballot and wisely refused to put the referendum on the Nov. 3 ballot. As a result, the bond measure is expected to be on the ballot in the spring.
In the past, Chief City Clerk Patricia Rafferty contacted election officials after Council approved a referendum. But the practice was not carried on by her successor.
Going forward, that responsibility must be clearly designated to avoid another such slipup.
In the meantime, city officials could use the time to review all capital spending again to ensure each project is necessary. With revenues falling and taxes going up, the public needs to know that all the expenditures are justified.
The bond issue accounts for a small portion of city spending, roughly 3 percent of the fiscal capital budget of $2.5 billion
Another detailed review may show the projects are indeed worthy and routine. The projects include $7.9 million for recreation-center renovations, $500,000 for the mayor's office of sustainability, and $400,000 in roof repairs to the small-mammal house at the Philadelphia Zoo.
Borrowed funds also would be used to provide $9 million to repave neighborhood streets and roads in Fairmount Park; $4.5 million for exterior renovations to City Hall; and $2.5 million for a new Fire Department facility.
Perhaps all the projects are needed, but the delay allows time to see if some could wait or be done for less.
During a budget crisis, difficult choices must be made. Perhaps the city could borrow less if some of the proposed projects could be delayed or done for less.