This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Philadelphia’s Mayor Nutter has made headlines recently for blasting the field of candidates running to take his job.
Specifically, he says that all of their plans to meet the School District’s funding needs are "bogus."
On Monday, Nutter deployed two of his top officials to go through the mayoral candidates’ education funding ideas, and, plan by plan, explain why they’re not the best routes to delivering the recurring $103 million that Superintendent William Hite has requested by September.
"It’s not that these are all horrible ideas and that no one should look at them, it’s just that they don’t get the District what it needs," said city Finance Director Rob Dubow at a City Hall press conference.
The Nutter administration’s critique analyzed 12 of the proposals put forward by candidates this campaign season.
Finding enough ‘fat’
Kenney’s plan hinges on generating $50 million in his first year in office by cutting the "fat" from city agencies and reforming how vendors bid for city contracts.
The former would be achieved by implementing "zero-based budgeting" and the latter through "reverse auctioning."
Dubow says those tactics might unearth some savings, but doubts that Kenney will get far – at least in the short term – before needing to cut services that citizens rely on.
"One of the big constraints is the amount of our budget that’s out of the mayor’s control, things like our pension costs, our debt-service costs," said Dubow. "The biggest portions of what’s under the mayor’s control are police and fire, so I’m not sure how much this would generate."
Kenney’s camp disagrees.
"The entire purpose of zero-based budgeting is for every department to have to justify its expenses – under that model firefighters and police tactics that save lives and keep Philadelphians safe would most certainly not be cut," said Kenney spokesperson Lauren Hitt.