Philly Mayor Kenney’s final city budget dedicates around $1.6B to public safety
PHILADELPHIA — In his final fiscal address to City Council, Mayor Jim Kenney on Thursday said about one-third of the $6.1 billion 2024 budget is going toward public safety.
So that means $1.6 billion will be dedicated to things such as staffing and funding for police, fire and prisons. For example, the police budget will rise to about $850 million, from about $800 million in the last budget. The city also intends to spend $2 million on recruitment and retention for city workers, including police.
Kenney also praised Council for its collaboration and stressed that the city’s finances are fiscally sound, despite its challenges of ongoing gun violence, poverty and the pandemic.
“Together, we have navigated and continue to lead our city through a global pandemic, a nationwide reckoning on racial justice, and a national crisis of gun violence that is causing heartbreak and pain for too many families and communities across Philadelphia,” Kenney said. “Our vision for the final budget of this administration is to make investments that provide quality services and infrastructure for residents, maintain the city’s fiscal health, reduce racial disparities and achieve equitable outcomes.”
Kenney’s address kicks off the budget process, which will involve about a dozen associated Council hearings.
The mayor thanked City Council and the body’s president Darrell Clarke, D-5th District, for their collaboration during his two-term tenure.
“We have already started working on — and more importantly — identified the need to have targeted investments,” Clarke said. “One of the things that happened in this budget process is the Council and the administration worked together early on to identify priorities and perspectives. You will probably see a budget process that doesn’t have too many adjustments. As always, City Council is going to make some adjustments. But I think this is one of the more consensus budgets that I’ve seen.”
Clarke, who isn’t seeking reelection, is retiring after more than 20 years in his seat and more than a decade as president.
City law prohibits the mayor from running for a third consecutive term. About 10 candidates are running for mayor, including several former councilmembers: Derek Green, Allan Domb, Helen Gym, Cherelle Parker and Maria Quinoñes-Sánchez.
To be sure, Council and the mayor’s office will have a bunch of new faces in January, after new members are sworn in based on the winners of the Nov. 7 elections. The primary election is May 16.
As for public safety, Kenney also announced $50 million for a new forensic laboratory for the Philadelphia Police Department and another $14.7 million over five years for new forensic specialists to help solve crimes.
In addition, the city is committing $9.2 million over five years for Operation Pinpoint, which deploys more police resources to problem areas.
The city also partnered with the Civic Coalition to Save Lives. Estelle Richman, executive director of the group and a life-long public servant, will be hired as the managing director’s senior adviser for gun violence initiatives, he said.
According to Kenney, as part of the budget process, his office held 15 community focus groups of city residents and several organizations, along with five employee focus groups.
That process showed that city residents are concerned the most about education, public safety, racial equity, poverty, housing and accessibility of services and infrastructure.
“These priorities reflect our concern for each other,” Kenney said. “They are our city’s values and I couldn’t be more honored to be this city’s mayor.”
For his part, Kenney said he has reaffirmed his commitments to quality education for all, justice, public safety, thriving neighborhoods and inclusive growth and economic opportunity.
Here are some of the other highlights of the fiscal year 2024 budget:
- $419 million in education investments that include funding for PHLpreK, Octavius Catto Scholarships, adult education, the school district and Community College of Philadelphia (CCP)
- $223 million in funding for improving safety, anti-violence initiatives such as support and resources for communities hit hardest by the violence
- $145 million for the Free Library of Philadelphia, Department of Parks and recreation for services, weekend hours and programs
- $60 million for street paving, reconstruction and access for people with disabilities
- $40 million for free transit passes for city employees and low-income residents
- 3.765% cut in wage taxes and a 5.83% cut in business taxes
- A freeze in property reassessments
Kenney also touted the successes of one of his signature programs, the free pre-k program known as PHLpreK, which he proposed seven years ago and lobbied Council to pass a beverage tax, to fund it.
Originally published at www.penncapital-star.com,by Special to the Capital-Star
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