In a new budget proposal Mayor Jim Kenney outlined a plan for revitalizing struggling neighborhoods, street improvements—including street sweeping—and school funding.
The 2020 proposal, which Kenney announced during a City Council meeting Thursday morning, doesn’t include a tax increase, but does plan for almost $5 billion in general fund expenditures.
“Many of the investments we are proposing come because the city ended last fiscal year with a strong fund balance,” Kenney said Thursday.
Kenney, who’s seeking a second term during mayoral elections this year, outlined all the ways the city has improved over the past few years in terms of infrastructure, cleanliness, crime rate, and more. He then asked Philadelphians to envision a more improved city in the coming years, discussing his five-year plan for the city and touting the focus of the budget proposal: a high performing public school system.
The plan will put more money toward the Philadelphia School District, amounting to a total of $1.2 billion over the next five years from the general fund. That includes over $700 million in new funding.
Other focuses of the budget plan include funding for 50 new police officers and more body cameras, as well as more funding for the Philadelphia Free Library system.
Additionally, the large-scale plan includes a lot of proposals that will have an effect on infrastructure and revitalization in the city. We’ve detailed some of the most important takeaways below:
Reconstructing and fixing Philly streets
Much of the budget proposal includes a plan to reconstruct and resurface city streets, with Kenney promising more than $200 million over the next five years for the project. He says that money will allow the Streets Department to repave over 130 miles of streets by 2024.
“This is the largest single investment in the capital program, accounting for almost one-fifth of the total capital program and will enable residents and visitors to notice a dramatic improvement in the quality of our streets,” Kenney said.
He also noted that the city plans to continue implementing Connect, the transportation plan unveiled last year. The plan has aimed to improve traffic safety by—among other things—restoring historic streets; making improvements to Roosevelt Boulevard, implementing a better bike network, and creating neighborhood slow zones.
Start street sweeping
One of the most anticipated measures in Kenney’s budget proposal Thursday was the plan to invest in street sweeping—a plan that got a round of applause and cheers when Kenney made the announcement Thursday.
Still, it will use relatively little funding from the overall budget. Kenney says the city aims to set away $2.3 million over the next year for the project, and $11.7 million over the next five years. The project will kick off this spring with street sweeping in six city neighborhoods, in order to test various pieces of equipment. The project will continue next spring.
Money for the Housing Trust Fund
In an expected measure, Kenney announced that the city is dedicating $80 million to the Housing Trust Fund (HTF) over the next six years, to support and help fund affordable housing projects. The promise is a result of last year’s long-debated construction tax bill, which aimed to raise money for affordable housing by taxing new construction projects. The bill was controversial, to say the least, and Kenney decided not to sign it. Instead he and City Council members struck a deal to allot a certain amount of money for the HTF each year over the next five years.
Continuing the ‘Resilience Project’
Over the past year, Kenney’s administration has engaged in what they’ve dubbed a “resilience project,” to clear homeless encampments and help homeless people find health services or temporary housing off the street. The project has also focused on reducing trash and litter and combatting Philly’s opioid problem.
This budget calls for $7.6 million next year and $36 million over the next five years to help fund the project.
“So far, we cleared the last of four large encampments humanely. In fact, more than half of the residents of the encampments accepted housing or services. We’ve also developed ways to prevent new encampments from forming,” Kenney said.
He broke down where the money will go, including $26 million over five years to the Office of Homeless Services, to help fund emergency, temporary and long-term housing for those who have to leave an encampment. Additionally, $6.5 million over five years will go to the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disability Services for community outreach, recovery housing and more.