Mayor James A. Young, center, met with several foreign dignitaries recently at City Hall. Pictured in no particular order are: Mohamed Abdelnour, Abdullah Ali Alenezi, Jeffrey Andrews, Sandra Ferrer Alarcon, Rup Sunar, Yvonne Musabyimana. The guests were part of an International Visitor Leadership Program put on by the U.S. State Department.
Mayor James A. Young, center, met with several foreign dignitaries recently at City Hall. Pictured in no particular order are: Mohamed Abdelnour, Abdullah Ali Alenezi, Jeffrey Andrews, Sandra Ferrer Alarcon, Rup Sunar, Yvonne Musabyimana. The guests were part of an International Visitor Leadership Program put on by the U.S. State Department.

A compromise was reached by the Mayor and Board of Aldermen last Tuesday to cut city taxes next year due in part to retiring school district debt.

The city was collecting 6.52 mills, or approximately $422,500 per year, for Philadelphia Public Schools. Aldermen elected to increase the general fund millage from 18 to 19 mills next fiscal year, and lower the debt service millage by 5.52 mills. That represents approximately $357,500 that will return to taxpayers.

The compromise agreement comes after Mayor James A. Young had sought to increase the city’s general fund from 18 mills to 20 mills and dedicate a separate 2 mills to the city's fire department. Young only wanted to cut 2.5 mills of the retired, debt or approximately $162,500.

Ward 2 Alderman Jim Fulton had previously opposed an increase to 20 mills, saying in a previous meeting, "I just don’t think my folks are going to go along with that."

Originally, Fulton wanted to cut the entire 6.52 mills from the budget and  leave the general fund at 18 mills.



Young had argued that the city could not function on only 18 mills, which is the city’s current general millage rate, especially with a nearly $1 million payment due and owing to the Mississippi Development Authority for the failed Alpha Gen project. Young also wanted additional funds for possible debt service on a proposed $450,000 fire engine for the fire department. Young also wanted pay raises for the city's employees.

The 19 mill measure was offered by Fulton as a compromise measure and Fulton, Ward 1 Alderman Joe Tullos and Ward 3 Alderman Ronnie Jenkins voted to approve the measure. Ward 4 Aldermen Cassie Henson and Alderman-at-large Leroy Clemons voted against the measure. Henson and Clemons appeared to want the higher 20 mill proposal made by Young.

Young said he was ok with the 19 mill proposal if it would ensure funds to pay for debt services on the nearly $1 million owed to the MDA and for debt service on the fire departments proposed $450,000 fire engine truck. He also wanted to assure that the measure would include a $1.25 per hour raise for certified law enforcement officers and a $.50 increase for all other employees.

According to figures provided during the meeting, the budget proposal would provide the city $7,723,588 in revenues versus $7,675,317 in expenditures for a net positive of $48,271. In order to balance the budget, Fulton included an additional $50,000 in prospective sales tax revenues. Fulton said he felt that the city would see an increase in sales tax revenues in fiscal year 2019.

The approved budget would include $1,862,389 in general government expenditures, $1892,918 in police department expenditures and $1,830,222 in fire department expenditures. The street department would receive $967,839, sanitation $530,745, municipal court $358,696, cemetery $188, 536 and animal control $43,971.

The board did not take up the additional proposed 2 mills Young wanted to dedicate to the fire department.

After the meeting, Young said he withdrew his request for the 2 mills to be dedicated to the fire department, but noted that another 2 mills will come off of the Philadelphia School District's debt service next year and that he may revisit the issue at that time.

The city in 2013 doubled taxes to cover recurring shortfalls. That 2013 tax increase came after six consecutive years of spending about $6 million more than the city took in. Cash reserves built up over decades were depleted. The city had been spending about $380,000 annually since 2005 to cover its share of $6 million in park improvements.

In other action:

• The board voted to terminate the employment of Fire Department Battalion Chief Dale Yates. The decision came after a nearly 30 minute executive session, during which Fire Chief Pierce Clark, Deputy Fire Chief Deric Horne and Battalion Chief Bill Chunn remained in the meeting room to discuss the matter. After the close of the executive session Clark made a request of the board to terminate Yates for “conduct unbecoming an officer.” The board then unanimously approved the request.

After the meeting, Clark said he could not discuss a personnel matter, reiterating that Yates had been terminated for conduct unbecoming.