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Financial crisis hits home: Budget cuts hurt Philadelphia and other local municipalities

Recently, the city of Philadelphia has faced large budget cuts. Last November, Mayor Michael Nutter announced that he would be closing 11 libraries, laying off city workers, cutting pay and eliminating a number of unfilled positions in the city. In addition to that, the city would not fulfill plans of hiring additional police officers.

“We must batten down the hatches and prepare for the worst,” Mayor Nutter said. “And that means reshaping government for leaner times.”

No layoffs will take place for either police officers or fire-fighters, however, according to an article in USA Today, some “fire equipment will be taken out of service.”

The beginning of January signaled the beginning of the shutdown of a number of fire departments in Philadelphia. As part of Mayor Nutter’s budget cuts, seven city fire departments have closed their doors.

According to Jeff Shields and Dwight Ott, Philadelphia Inquirer staff writers, Mayor Nutter claims that the public will not be in any danger because of these shutdowns, but the head of the Firefighters’ Union begs to differ.

While Mayor Nutter notes that there have been fewer fires as well as a decline in population, Brian McBride, the president of the Firefighters’ Union, said, “What Mayor Nutter doesn’t realize is that he put the lives of firefighters and the citizens they serve in jeopardy.” Only time will tell if the cutbacks will negatively affect the public.

The libraries which were ordered to be shut down last November have been kept open because Judge Idee C. Fox has ordered that they must remain open until the City Council approves their closure. The reasoning behind the ruling is that there is a city ordinance which requires the mayor to get City Council permission to close down any city buildings, according to an article on Philly.com.

Another big blow to the city came just last week when Mayor Nutter announced the city’s budget deficit had risen to $2 billion. City officials have been noted as saying that a raise in taxes may be necessary to counter this budget gap. Mayor Nutter did not announce any more planned cuts because of the amount of criticism he received last November. Instead, Nutter said he would seek input from the public before making any concrete cuts.

Apart from Philadelphia, many other local municipalities are experiencing budget crunches. John Osborne, treasurer for Radnor Township, said, “Everybody’s being affected by it.”

For Radnor Township, Osborne said, retirement funds, which have lost 25 percent, are taking the biggest hit. Revenues are falling and businesses are being impacted, however Radnor Township “hasn’t been impacted as much … we’re staying pretty strong.”

One positive note for Radnor is that “houses are holding their value,” Osborne said. Cuts are going to have to be made. Most expenses are in payroll, but Radnor plans to make other cuts before even considering cutting jobs. Eliminating extra services such as rear yard garbage pickup is an option, while cutting office supplies as much as possible is another.

All in all, Radnor Township has not been hit as hard as other communities, Osborne said. However, budget cuts may still be necessary in the future to keep Radnor in the shape that it is currently in.

Sources:

“Philadelphia Makes Big Cuts to Help Close a Budget Gap,” NY Times;

“Philly mayor outlines drastic budget cuts,” USA Today;

“Judge orders libraries to stay open,” Philly.com;

“City fire department shutdowns begin,” Philly.com;

“Suddenly, city budget gap doubles to $2B,” Philly.com.

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