Will PICA reject Philadelphia budget plan?

City Controller Alan Butkovitz MICHAEL S. WIRTZ / staff Photographer
City Controller Alan Butkovitz MICHAEL S. WIRTZ / staff Photographer
Posted: August 09, 2012

Pressure is mounting on the city's fiscal watchdog to reject Mayor Nutter's five-year financial plan.

City Controller Alan Butkovitz on Wednesday said that the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority should send back the plan on the grounds that it is irresponsible not to budget money for raises for firefighters.

"It's unreasonable for the city to not budget any money for it," said Butkovitz. "The purpose of the PICA act is to make sure the city doesn't have sudden surprises for deficits."

A recent arbitration award for the city's firefighters includes retroactive raises and benefit increases that the city says will cost $74 million this fiscal year. The Nutter administration has appealed the award and has not included the possible costs in the plan.

Butkovitz called that decision irresponsible, given that this is the second such contract issued to the firefighters by an arbitration panel. He also said the administration should plan on raises for the city's nonuniformed workers, who have been without contracts since 2009.

Finance director Rob Dubow said that the city believes it can win the appeal of the fire award. Any raises for blue- and white-collar workers should be offset by other savings, he said.

Asked if he thought PICA would reject the plan, Dubow said the city was in talks with PICA about providing them with more information. "We're confident that we can work with the PICA board to get them to a place where they'll approve the plan," he said.

If PICA rejects the plan and the city cannot revise it to meet board members' concerns, the board could cut off state funding to the city. PICA has not rejected a budget plan since the agency was established in 1991.

Board chairman Sam Katz said he thought that a majority of the five board members had concerns about the plan.

"I think that there's a general consensus that it is no longer reasonable to assume, at least as it relates to the firefighters, that no increases to salary and benefits is a reasonable assumption," Katz said. "We've been urging the city to submit a different plan, or a supplement to this plan."

Katz said that he couldn't predict what would happen at Thursday's board meeting. He said a complete rejection of the plan was a worst-case-scenario.

"The problem with the PICA statue is we only have one real power and it's nuclear," Katz said. 3

Contact Catherine Lucey at 215-854-4172 or luceyc@phillynews.com. Follow her on Twitter @phillyclout and read her blog at phillyclout.com.

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