Today, Philadelphia City Council begins at least two months of budget hearings. Each city department will testify before city council, answering questions about their budget and operations. Sometimes the hearings are perfunctory; sometimes, they become contentious.
Generally speaking; however, the information provided through these hearings is incredibly useful to Philadelphians. Here at Hall Monitor, we’ll do our best to distill the hours worth of testimony into smaller, more digestible bites so Philadelphians know how their money is being spent.
Here’s who’s up this week:
Five Year Plan
As part of the budget process, the Finance and Budget Directors prepare a Five-Year Plan constituting estimates of revenues and expenditures for the years after the current budget cycle.
The Capital Program is the infrastructure aspect of the budget. This year, the city is allocating $4.7 billion in capital expenses. These expenditures go towards city-owned buildings and other long-term city assets.
This one is pretty self-explanatory. The Mayor is the chief executive of the city, overseeing all municipal departments.
Department of Finance
The Finance Department is responsible for the fiscal policy of the city. This is the office that creates the yearly budget, the Five-Year Plan, and other aspects of the city’s finances.
Department of Revenue
The Department of Revenue is the tax-collection arm of the city.
Office of Property Assessment
The Office of Property Assessment may be one of the more controversial offices to testify this week, as they are responsible for assessing all city properties for taxation. Last year, OPA reassessed Philadelphia properties for the first time since the pandemic, raising taxes at various levels on most property owners in the city. OPA has said they will not do a new assessment this coming year, which could lead to a similar situation next year.
Board of Revision of Taxes
The BRT hears appeals regarding real estate taxes. After last year’s assessment, they were particularly busy.
The Sinking Fund is the city’s debt service. When the city borrows money (usually via municipal bonds), the debt must be managed. Last year, the sinking fund’s budget was $638 million, making this one of the largest departments in the city.
Board of Pensions
The Board of Pensions administers the city’s pension system. In the past, this has been a major concern, as previous mayoral administrations offered lavish retirement benefits to city workers-well beyond what other cities were offering to employees.
The City Treasurer “safeguards city funds, issues disbursements,and manages investments.”