On Thursday, Mayor Jim Kenney released his budget for Fiscal Year 2017, which begins July 1. Here’s what’s in store for transportation, planning, preservation, commercial corridors and more.
Kenney is proposing a half-billion dollar investment in the city’s parks, recreation centers, and libraries, backed by a $300 million bond sale, as PlanPhilly described last week. The city is currently in planning mode for this investment, creating “criteria and values” and setting priorities for where to spend money first, said Managing Director Mike DiBerardinis in a budget briefing on Wednesday. The bonds would be sold in three phases, with the first bond issue coming next January, according to DeBerardinis.
The proposal increases the resurfacing budget by $1 million out of general obligation funds, plus an additional $2.8 million from repurposed general obligation funds, for a total of $23.8 million. Last year’s budget of $20.4 million paid for around 85 miles of street resurfacing. This year, Kenney’s team predicts 55 miles, and hopes to reach 131 miles a year within five years. As of 2014, 900 miles of Philadelphia’s 2,575 miles of city-maintained streets were on the Streets Department’s paving backlog
The proposal calls for zeroing out the historic streets budget in Fiscal Year 2017 and then restoring it to $500,000 per year thereafter.
Interesting note: The city budget alternatively refers to the city’s 2,575 miles of streets and 2,225 miles of streets. There is consensus over Philadelphia having 320 bridges to maintain. According to a Streets Department spokesperson, Philly has 2,575 miles–2,180 miles of city streets, 35 miles of Fairmount Park roads and 360 miles of state highways.
The new Office of Planning and Development, which was proposed by City Council President Darrell Clarke and approved by voters on the November ballot, will start out with a budget of $1,016,000. The mission of the office, which is headed by Anne Fadullon, is “to coordinate the City's planning, zoning, housing, and development functions to promote the economic health of all of Philadelphia's neighborhoods and the city as a whole,” according to Kenney’s budget. The Office will be responsible for accelerating zoning remapping, completing Philadelphia2035 district plans, and creating a Division of Development Services to expedite departmental review of major projects.
Kenney pledged his support for Complete Streets and Vision Zero during the election. He’s created a new Complete Streets Commissioner position in the Office of Transportation and Infrastructure Systems (OTIS), which replaces the office formerly known as MOTU. OTIS is located located under the Managing Director’s office in the budget, which means it does not have separate line items in the budget-in-brief, meaning we do not know yet what funding changes are in store. MOTU was largely self-sufficient, having won numerous federal grants for its operations.
Complete Streets is shorthand for a suite of policy and infrastructure changes aimed at making streets more friendly for pedestrians and bicyclists.
Vision Zero is a related, yet separate, concept focused on reducing traffic fatalities and serious injuries to zero. The Kenney budget sets aside $250,000 to draft a Vision Zero strategy for Philadelphia.
The City was awarded $10 million in federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant money last fall to make complete street improvements in North and West Philadelphia.
Kenney has proposed funding the Storefront Improvement Program at a rate of $600,000 a year through the city’s general fund. Previously, the program, which is popular among neighborhood development groups, ran around $500,000 a year, and was paid for with Community Development Block Grants. Last spring, advocates worried that changes to federal regulations could make it more expensive and difficult to do storefront improvements, which might jeopardize the program. Funding the program with city money would avoid the trouble, they said.
This is likely to disappoint some preservationists: The budget contains no additional funding for the Historical Commission, even though the Commission gets by on a shoestring compared to its peer agencies in other big cities. The Commission currently has six employees. Kenney’s five-year plan would keep it that way. Last budget season then-Councilman Kenney called for an increase of $500,000 to support the commission’s work.
Kenney’s budget shifts $450,000 in additional funding to the Community Life Improvement Program (CLIP), which employs non-violent offenders on projects like removing graffiti and cleaning vacant lots and provides resources for volunteer neighborhood clean-ups. The budget also calls for establishing two new district offices for the Department of Licenses and Inspections. Karen Guss, a spokeswoman for L&I, said that the Department’s inspectors are already cramped in their two existing district offices, and more inspectors are coming in. It’s not clear where the new district offices will be.
The Kenney budget predicts $1.5 million in additional savings and increased fees from technological improvements to the city’s right of way (ROW) management system. The ROW management system charges fees when construction shuts down a sidewalk, street or part of a street. Forcing pedestrians to walk around shut down sidewalks, which often results in pedestrians dangerously walking in the street, is one of Kenney’s major pet peeves.