A Reprieve for Philly Libraries

Adrian Versteegh

Philadelphia’s fifty-four public libraries—along with its court system, rec centers, and thousands of public employees—were granted a reprieve last Thursday afternoon when the State Senate approved a $700 million relief package for the city. The funding forestalls mayor Michael Nutter’s “Plan C” budget, which, among other cuts, had called for the indefinite suspension of all library services on October 2.

“We are enormously grateful to everyone who advocated on our behalf,” reads a statement issued shortly after the vote by the Free Library of Philadelphia. “More than two thousand letters to state legislators were collected from our libraries, and countless others made calls and sent e-mails underscoring how important public libraries are to the economic, educational, and social life of our city.”

Thursday’s 32-17 vote allows Philadelphia to raise the sales tax to 8 percent for the next five years and to delay a portion of its pension fund contributions for the fiscal years 2010 and 2011. The tax hike, expected to take effect sometime next month, will see two cents on every dollar going to the city.

While Philly may finally be on track to addressing its fiscal shortfalls, Pennsylvania as a whole remains the only state without a budget. After eighty days of deadlock, a compromise—announced in Harrisburg on Friday—is expected to be put before the State House and Senate shortly.