COUNCIL GIVES PRELIMINARY APPROVAL TO FY2020 BUDGET MAKING BOLD INVESTMENTS IN STRONG NEIGHBORHOODS & POVERTY REDUCTION

In Council News, Darrell L. Clarke, Featured, News by PHL Council

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Philadelphia, June 6, 2019 City Council is on track to give final approval to a $5 billion Fiscal Year 2020 budget package that will increase the supply of affordable housing, bolster legal protections for renters, support strong neighborhoods and commercial corridors throughout Philadelphia, while providing tax relief for middle-class homeowners.

“Over the course of three months, City Council has deliberated Mayor Kenney’s proposed operating budget and capital spending plan for the next fiscal year, checking the Administration’s math while also working toward a final package that will achieve our shared goals of greater equity and access to opportunity for all Philadelphians. Healthy revenue growth and payoffs from prudent decisions made in past budgets have put us in an enviable position among our peer cities,” Council President Darrell L. Clarke (5th District) said.

He continued: “The Fiscal Year 2020 budget documents that received preliminary approval from Council today will put Philly squarely on a path toward greater growth in which health and prosperity will be spread more equitably across communities and neighborhoods: $41.6 million more for the School District of Philadelphia, an unprecedented $2 million increase for commercial corridors, $1.9 million for the LandCare Reentry Program, $1.5 million for eviction prevention for low-income renters, and $20 million more for the Housing Trust Fund for affordable housing programs are just the start of bold investments we’re making in Philly’s future.”

In March, Council released a comprehensive report on solutions to reduce poverty in Philadelphia. The majority of members have since signed on to legislative remedies, including targeted protections for low-income renters. Following negotiations led by Councilmember At-Large Helen Gym, the FY20 budget package authorizes $1.5 million for a low-income tenants legal defense fund. The nonprofit Philadelphia Unemployment Project, which also supports low-income tenants, will receive an additional $55,000 that will leverage even more state funding.

Council budget amendments represent both funding increases initiated by members, with the consent of the Kenney Administration, as well as restoration of funding cut by the Administration from the previous fiscal year. For instance, the LandCare Program — which connects formerly incarcerated people with anti-blight landscaping training and job placement — will be boosted by nearly $2 million, at the request of members including Council President Clarke, for the fourth consecutive year.

Other Council-proposed adjustments to Mayor Jim Kenney’s proposed FY2020 budget include:

  • $150,000 in restored funding for Women Against Abuse, the primary operator of City domestic violence shelters 
  • $325,000 in increased funding to support clean blocks, streets, and neighborhoods 
  • $600,000 in increased funding for the Office of the District Attorney
  • $500,000 in increased funding for the Defender Association
  • $600,000 for the Department of Licenses and Inspections, which will be used to increase staffing for more effective enforcement
  • $800,000 in increased funding for the Office of Homeless Services

Serious concerns about the accuracy and fairness of Office of Property Assessment (OPA) procedures and operations led Council to issue recommendations for reform following an independent audit of OPA earlier this year. Inexplicably high or low assessments of properties in low-income and gentrifying neighborhoods spurred Council to reject a proposed property tax increase for the current fiscal year, and under Council President Clarke’s leadership, the property tax rate will remain steady until reforms, including new management, are in place at OPA.

To further protect homeowners in the meantime, Council gave preliminary approval today to a bill from Minority Leader Brian J. O’Neill (10th District) that will increase the Homestead Exemption to $45,000, or by 12.5%. Approximately 220,000 homeowners who take advantage of this relief will be able to reduce their taxable assessment by an additional $5,000, for millions of dollars in total savings.

“Data are the basic building blocks of government and public policy, and we must continue to press the Administration to focus on improving property data and assessment accuracy,” Council President Clarke added. “I thank Councilmember O’Neill for his constant vigilance on behalf of taxpayers, and I look forward to final passage of a Fiscal Year 2020 budget package that will move our City forward in demonstrably positive ways.”

Budget legislation and related documents can be found on the City Council FY2020 Budget Center website:  phlcouncil.com/budget2020 .

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