BY PATRICK KERKSTRA INQUIRER STAFF WRITER Before the next mayor’s first term ends, $1 of every $4 Philadelphia spends will go to city workers’ pensions and health benefits. Unless the city gets a handle on these costs — which have more than doubled in Mayor Street’s tenure — the next mayor will have little or no cash left for new initiatives.
Alone among big U.S. cities, Philadelphia has committed itself to substantive, long-term tax cuts. The reductions may be essential if the city is to scale down its notorious tax burden and compete for commerce, but that does not erase the fact that the cuts will take $1.45 billion out of the next four annual budgets.
The city’s very foundation – its public buildings, roads, jails — is crumbling after years of underinvestment. Massive borrowing is needed to repair it, but the city is close to its debt ceiling and already spends nearly $200 million a year on debt service, up 50 percent since 2001.
There’s more. Prisons costs are soaring, PGW is wobbly, and SEPTA and the schools are likely to need extra cash from the city in the next four years.
INQUIRER: Say Another Prayer For The City