Election 2020

Ballot question: Should Philly borrow $134 million to fund transit improvements, parks and sanitation?

Voters must decide whether to give the cash-strapped city authorization for the purpose. 

Ciclistas y peatones en la ruta del río Schuylkill, octubre de 2020

Ciclistas y peatones en la ruta del río Schuylkill, octubre de 2020

Mark Henninger / Imagic Digital

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It’s no secret Philly’s mired in a more intense budget crunch than we’ve seen in years. The already cash-strapped city had to further tighten its belt when the economic toll of the pandemic forced officials to cut roughly $649 million from its fiscal year 2021 budget.


¿Hable español? Esta guía ha sido traducida por Kensington Voice

Now, as he does every year, Mayor Jim Kenney is asking you whether he can borrow more than $100 million to help supplement city programming.

What you’ll see on the ballot

Should the City of Philadelphia borrow ONE HUNDRED THIRTY FOUR MILLION DOLLARS ($134,000,000.00) to be spent for and toward capital purposes as follows: Transit; Streets and Sanitation; Municipal Buildings; Parks, Recreation and Museums; and Economic and Community Development?

What it means

Per usual, this is your standard “let us have some money” question. Basically, this is Mayor Kenney asking voters directly whether they’ll authorize the city to borrow to fund various programs. It’s very common — there’s been a bond question like this, same exact wording and format, every year for the past two decades. This time around, the administration is asking for a $134 million loan specifically for projects related to parks and recreation, cultural institutions, sanitation, transportation and related programming.

Last election, the Inquirer had a helpful primer on this boilerplate ballot question. Some context about this year’s version:

  • That asking price sounds a little steep, but it should be considered in context: This year, it’s roughly 3% of the city’s annual budget.
  • Still, it would add to the city’s outstanding debt of $5.5 billion to be paid through 2047
  • The city had to cut lots of programming after slashing its FY2021 budget by more than half a billion dollars due to the coronavirus.
  • The amount is less than last year’s $185 million bond.
  • Overall, our current mayor has asked for more money in bonds than his predecessor, Mayor Michael Nutter.



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