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March 03, 2016

What to expect from today's budget address from Mayor Kenney

City officials gave a preview of the $4.1 billion spending plan for 2017

Politics Budget Proposal
Jim Kenney Photo by @JimFKenney/Twitter

Councilman Jim Kenney

Freshman Mayor Jim Kenney will deliver a $4.1 billion spending plan for 2017 – as well as a five-year financial plan – to Philadelphia City Council on Thursday morning. 

As already reported, the budget proposal – up from $3.9 billion for 2016 – includes a sugary drinks tax of three cents per ounce to help pay for universal pre-K, a community schooling plan that Kenney has trumpeted since last year; an energy savings campaign and contributions to the city pension plan. 

The soda tax, as proposed the highest in the country, and likely to face opposition, would generate about $95 million a year in new revenue. 

That revenue, said the city's budget director, Anna Adams, who with other city officials discussed the budget Wednesday afternoon, would fund universal pre-K at an expected cost of $26 million in 2017. Eventually, the city hopes to enroll 25,000 students in the program, with costs seen rising to about $60 million in 2019.

Kenney's community schools project – which would incorporate city services into about 25 city schools in 2017 – would initially cost about $4 million. According to the five-year financial plan, the city expects to spend $10 million a year on the initiative. City officials said Wednesday it's too early to know just which schools would become part of the plan, 

The budget proposal would cut costs by reducing overtime for city employees. Officials said that staffing changes and planning could cut police personnel costs by $10 million over the next five years. Other departments, including Fire, Streets and Corrections, could reduce employee-related costs about $2.5 million each over that same period. 

Anticipated revenues include an additional $5.6 million in delinquent real estate taxes from a refocused collection campaign. An additional $8 million of delinquent taxes are projected to be collected annually. 

The soda tax would also be used to contribute $26 million to the city pension fund, whose costs have ballooned from about $194 million in 2001, or 6.7-percent of the city's annual expenditures, to about $641 million, or 15.4-percent of expenditures, in 2017. The city expects pension costs over the next five years to total about $3.4 billion. 

Officials said the city intends to borrow $100 million through two bond issues to look at ways that it can reduce energy costs at municipal buildings. 

Among the other elements of the budget Kenney is expected to address:

• $200 million set aside for labor contracts and pay raises for city employees

• $550,000 per year which will be used to buy body cameras for the city's police force

• $600,000 annually for a storefront improvement program for the city's commercial corridors

• $450,000 annually for the city's Community Life Improvement Program, and

• Millions for new equipment for the city's Streets and Fire departments