February 11, 2014 |
THE PENSION crisis facing Philadelphia - and cities and states across the country - is almost universally blamed on the kick-the-can-down-the-road tactics of past politicians, who promised costly retirement benefits to workers without creating revenue streams to pay for them. Now, just as governments begin to tackle this reality, some economists and observers are saying that officials are once again kicking the can. But this time, the maneuver is a little trickier. In short, governments are assuming that their pension-fund investments will do better in the market than many believe is possible.
November 23, 2013 |
The West Chester Borough Council on Wednesday killed a proposed earned income tax that officials had said was necessary to save the borough's diminishing pension fund. Mayor Carolyn Comitta, who was in favor of the 0.25 percent tax increase, said she was "very disappointed" in the 4-3 council vote. "Quite frankly, it is in my opinion a mistake," she said. "You really can't kick these very important decisions down the road and that's what happened again. We're in the same place we were before.
November 13, 2013 |
PHILADELPHIA When it comes to postrecession recovery, Philadelphia is in the middle of the pack of large cities, according to a Pew Charitable Trusts report released Monday. While the city was almost near full recovery in 2011 - the last full year of data used for the report - Pew researchers warned that Philadelphia's unfunded pension and retiree health benefits posed great threats to the city's available revenue in years to come. The report, "America's Big Cities in Volatile Times," was based on data from 2007 through 2011 and looked at how the country's 30 most populous cities fared in the aftermath of the recession, which ended in June 2009.
October 20, 2013 |
MAYOR NUTTER'S administration yesterday continued to build the case for the sale of Philadelphia Gas Works, releasing a cost/benefit analysis showing how the sale could be a good deal for taxpayers. The new report, completed by the city-hired consulting firm Lazard Freres, estimates that PGW will fetch $1.45 billion to $1.9 billion in a sale - a $50 million increase from an estimate 18 months ago. That would result in a net profit of $422 million to $872 million, after PGW's substantial debts are paid off. Budget Director Rebecca Rhynhart said the report provides a conservative estimate of the utility's value for two reasons: It did not take into account the potential for new business opportunities that bidders may be eyeing through a purchase, and it did not consider rate increases that PGW is already pursuing.
October 19, 2013 |
A privatized Philadelphia Gas Works would pay very little city tax compared with the $18 million fee the utility now generates annually for the treasury, but Nutter administration officials say its sale could yield far bigger long-term benefits for city taxpayers. City Budget Director Rebecca Rhynhart acknowledged Thursday that the municipal utility, if sold to a private buyer, would generate a "minimal amount of tax revenue" for the city - less than $300,000 a year. But Rhynhart said proceeds from the sale, if used to pay down the city's underfunded pension liability, could reduce the annual pension obligation by much more than the utility now generates in income.
September 27, 2013 |
MAYOR NUTTER yesterday gave a high-profile speech about urban violence and illegal guns at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. But back home, one of the mayor's signature gun-control efforts, the "Sandy Hook Principles," appears to be struggling to gain steam. The policy, announced in January after the massacre of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., aims to compel gun manufacturers and retailers in which the city's pension fund invests to sign off on eight safety-minded policies.
September 27, 2013 |
MAYOR NUTTER has for weeks been calling on City Council - publicly and privately - to move forward on Gov. Corbett's school-funding plan, but has yet to get a single member to introduce the legislation. City Hall insiders say it's emblematic of Council's sheer disregard for the mayor, who appears to lack even a single reliable ally to push his second-term agenda. "I've never heard of that before. Never," said Councilman Jim Kenney, a former longtime Nutter pal and ally, who finds the school-funding stalemate symbolic of the mayor's icy relations with Council.
September 6, 2013 |
WHEN ASKED about his disagreement with Council President Darrell Clarke over Philly's school-funding crisis, Mayor Nutter often stresses that they really aren't that far apart. He rattles off a list of policy goals he shares with Clarke and he questions why people focus on their differences. The mayor has a point: On many fronts, he and Clarke are on the same page: Both want a new school-funding formula for the state, both want Harrisburg to enable a city tax on cigarettes, and both want to split new sales-tax revenue 50/50 between Philly's schools and its pension fund.
August 15, 2013
TWO MORE days. If Friday doesn't arrive with a $50 million check, Superintendent William Hite says that he will delay the Sept. 9 opening of schools. Hite made that announcement six days ago. Not only are we no closer to resolving the issue, but the situation is worse: Hours after state and city lawmakers yesterday called on Gov. Corbett to release $45 million promised from the state, Corbett pulled out a flaming hoop for the schools to jump through, demanding concessions from teachers, whose contract doesn't expire for two more weeks.
August 9, 2013
THIRTY-ONE days just became seven. If City Council doesn't move on certifying $50 million in proceeds from the sales tax to the School District by next Friday, Superintendent William Hite says he will be unable to open the schools on Sept. 9. So the daily countdown of time remaining in the standoff between the schools and the state and city lawmakers who have fallen short of finding the money the schools need to open has just been shortened. More to the point, Hite has finally introduced the nuclear option.