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Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney has calculated that the City has a gap of $649M that needs to be closed before City Council can adopt a FY21 budget before June 30, 2020. $649M is 12 percent of the City’s overall budget.

The Mayor is proposing to close the gap by dipping into reserves, increasing taxes and reducing expenditures.  The Mayor says he must trim discretionary spending by 15-20 percent to reduce expenditures by $370M, increase taxes by $49.9M and use $228.7M in reserves.

The expenditure reductions of $370M are from the original FY21 budget proposed in early March. When compared to the FY20 adopted budget, the expenditure reduction is more like $130M. Still significant, but an important distinction.

This document details the various Departments’ budgets that impacts Vision Zero and safe and connected streets and trails.

It appears that for some Departments, they are taking a hit in the FY21 Budget whether it was the proposed version of the revised version.

The budgets for Parks and Recreation and the Planning & Development are taking hard hits as compared to their FY20 budget. They will be 82 percent and 65 percent smaller, respectively

The Transportation side of the Streets Department will have to trim $8.6M from its budget as compared to its FY20 budget, while the Disposal (Sanitation) side will actually see a $3.1M increase. The Transportation side of the Streets Department will be 8 percent smaller than it was in FY20.

The Managing Director’s office, which is where the Office of Complete Streets (Vision Zero and Bicycle/Pedestrian Planning) and the Office of Transportation, Infrastructure and Sustainability are housed, must cut its budget by $3.2M or a 6 percent reduction from its FY20 levels.

In March, the city-supported portion of the Capital Budget was proposed to be $170M. That figure is being revised down to $128M. The FY21 revision document says that the $128 will include $45.6M for paving, an ADA consultant and existing facilities and infrastructure (p. 23 of this document.)  But, no supporting detail was provided in the revised document about what is included in the $45.6M figure.

Vision Zero had a line item of $2M in the March proposed Capital Budget to leverage state and federal matching grants.  That line item has been eliminated for FY21 in the revised budget, preventing the City from securing $8M in new grants for Vision Zero projects.

The March 2020 proposed FY21 capital budget had included $32.6M for paving according to the March 3, 2020 version of the Five Year Plan (p. 16 of this document) and $240M over a six year period (FY21-FY26).

It’s not possible to tell yet how the revised capital budget will compare to the proposed capital budget in terms of its impact on paving or Circuit trails. We are still hoping the federal government changes its tune and provides relief for cities hit hard by the economic downturn in part spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic — but we’re not holding our breath.

What does this mean for our work? Simple: We must work harder and think outside the box to continue making Philadelphia a safer place to ride a bicycle and move around whether on a bike, by walking or driving. We will also work on how to fix the budget so road safety, streets and trails are not hit so hard — but that won’t be easy. As many recall, the Great Recession caused major cuts to the city paving budget that were never permanently fixed. We were on track to see the budget get back to its pre-recession levels toward the end of Kenney’s second term, but that is speculative now. So to be clear, 12 years after the recession hit, Philadelphia still hasn’t gotten back to pre-recession paving levels, and the pandemic has likely delayed that goal even further into the future.

New ideas, like pop-up protected bike lanes, open streets and slowed streets will all be required to get Philadelphia over the hump and into a brighter future, and we are currently working on a plan that provides all of that, and more, to help make our city the best it can be during these times and beyond.

Randy LoBasso

Author

Randy LoBasso is the policy director at the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia.

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