Councilman Henon talks city budget

Councilman Bobby Henon discussed and answered questions about Mayor Kenney’s proposed 2019 city budget.

JOHN COLE / TIMES PHOTO

Last Wednesday, City Councilman Bobby Henon (D-6th dist.) held his second city budget forum at St. Jerome School in Holme Circle. This forum was moderated by City Commissioner Lisa Deeley, and included representatives from the city’s Finance Department and Office of Property Assessment. After presenting some statistics on the proposed budget, the panel answered questions from those in the room, via Facebook live feed, and through a teleconference phone call.

In February, Mayor Jim Kenney released his budget proposal for the 2019 fiscal year. This budget proposal includes increases in property and real estate transfer taxes to fund the School District of Philadelphia. Henon did not release his final position on the proposed budget that night.

“City Council is reviewing them right now,” said Henon. “We’re evaluating the mayor’s budget proposal as we speak.”

Sara de Wolf, deputy budget director for program evaluation, detailed the specific tax increases and where the allocation of the funds would go. The proposed budget is $4.6 billion, which includes funding for various city services.

“(The proposed budget is) Increasing the property tax rate by 4.1 percent and providing the revenue from that tax increase to the school district,” de Wolf said.

The budget proposal also includes increasing the Homestead exemption from $30,000 to $45,000. This will be offset by the proposed increase in real estate transfer tax.

Many in attendance posed questions on the value assessment of their properties and asked what they could expect to see differently in their own neighborhoods.

“(The proposed budget) Includes large investments in our police, our fire, our streets and our roadways,” said Henon.

Henon’s district encompasses multiple police districts, and there are planned renovations for two of those districts in the near future. He specifically spoke about fighting for funding for the 2nd and 15th police districts.

“We’re going to receive a new police district,” Henon said. “We’re going to make that announcement soon, and the 2nd Police District is going to be relocated.”

He said more details on this development will be released in the upcoming weeks.

In Kenney’s five-year plan, the Philadelphia Police Department will “increase our police budget by $100 million,” Henon said.

This will result in hiring more police officers to more districts.

The room applauded when they were told that the “brownouts” for certain city firehouses were coming to a close.

“We’re reopening firehouses across the city,” said Henon.

In addition to the increase in the Philadelphia police budget and the end of “brownouts,” the city plans to put 209 more firefighters and paramedics on the streets, according to Henon.

Henon expressed his approval of the proposed increase for both the police and fire department.

“We have been shortchanged in our public safety department for our first responders for a long time,” said Henon.

Henon also was asked about the 10-year tax abatement that was used to spark development in various struggling neighborhoods across the city.

Henon acknowledged that City Council and the mayor are openly discussing eliminating this “controversial” tax abatement. He did state his belief that the 10-year tax abatement was successful in various neighborhoods.

“I think we’ve done that successfully (sparked development),” Henon said. “We’ve created jobs, we’ve created opportunities in neighborhoods that never would have seen the light.”

He did not release his official stance on the elimination on it yet, but thinks it will be an ongoing discussion.

“It will be a hot issue throughout this budget process,” Henon said.

Although it was not exactly pertaining to the budget, Henon was asked about the proposed safe injection sites that Kenney has spoken about over the past couple of months.

“We do have a serious, serious opioid epidemic problem here in the city of Philadelphia,” Henon said. “I’m not sure if it’s the safe injection sites because we don’t have enough information, I don’t have enough information to make a determination on it yet….We have no idea if they’re going to even happen.”

Henon assured those in attendance that if there were any development in the discussion on proposed safe injection sites, he would open up a dialogue about it. ••