New report says Philadelphia's budget is average compared to other big cities

Pat Loeb
December 18, 2019 - 4:00 am
Philadelphia City Hall.

Holli Stephens / KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Philadelphia's budget has grown by more than a billion dollars in the last 10 years, and a new report from the Pew Center says that's very average compared to other big cities. 

Pew's Philadelphia Research Initiative compared the city's budget to the rest of the 30 largest cities and found that increases were actually below the median. 

Director Larry Eichel says that gives context to concerns about budget growth.

"Spending has been totally typical for a large city. It's been either large nor small," Eichel explained. 

Eichel said spending increases have accelerated under the Kenney administration, but so has revenue. 

"Even with those increases, the general fund has had substantial year-end balances," he added.

The starting point of 2008 is significant, because that was the year of the great recession when then-Mayor Michael Nutter had to make painful cuts. He reversed those in his second term, and Mayor Jim Kenney has added new spending at an even higher rate, with new revenue allowing for healthy year-end fund balances and the first deposit in the rainy day fund. 

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Eichel said most of the spending increases have been in just three categories: employee benefits, including the pension fund; payroll in the police and fire departments due to new contracts and more employees; and education spending due to an increase in the city's contribution to the school district and its own pre-K and community schools programs. 

Eichel said since this is all spending the city wants to continue to do, it may face a challenge. 

"If and when revenues decrease, the city will have to decide what to do about that," he said.