Today we were extremely disheartened to learn how dire the city’s financial situation is because the State has not yet passed a State budget. Along with many other very severe cuts, Mayor Nutter today announced the possible closing of many of our public libraries if the State does not end the budget impasse very soon. Philadelphia has already made major sacrifices to rebalance its budget after the collapse of the global economy. Nonetheless, we need Harrisburg to act immediately to pass a state budget so Philadelphia can try to deal with the financial crisis in the best way possible.
For Philadelphians and our surrounding neighbors, it is more critical than ever that we act in unity to urge passage of the budget and then passage of two bills that let Philadelphia make necessary changes to remain financially viable without drastically cutting services. The additional bills that the state legislature must vote on before recess are State House Bill 1828 and Senate Bill 1058, which authorize the City to defer a portion of its pension payments and temporarily increase the local sales tax by 1 percent. If these bills and a state budget are not passed, the City will be required to cut $700 million in spending from its five year plan to meet state-mandated financial requirements. Cutting $700 million from the city budget will require drastic and wide-reaching service cuts, including laying off hundreds of police officers and firefighters, closing all libraries and recreation centers, closing two City health centers, and eliminating almost 3,000 positions. This legislation to increase the sales tax and defer a portion of the city’s pension payments has no fiscal impact to the State budget—it merely gives Philadelphia’s government the tools to help the city maintain safety and an adequate quality of life.
Represented in every one of our neighborhoods, the Free Library of Philadelphia is the heart of each community. The resources and services we provide are essential to our community members, and usage of the Library has increased dramatically. Job seekers use free public computers for job searches, children seek out safe havens with homework help, and seniors rely on the Library to access information about social security and other federal benefits, information that is now found only online. The Free Library of Philadelphia also provides hundreds of public-access computers with free internet service, a resource highly valued in a city where almost half of the citizens are without internet access at home.
Please help us keep our libraries open! Write to your legislator today and urge him/her to pass these two Philadelphia city bills and the State budget. Now more than ever, we need libraries to serve the underserved and those challenged by the economy. Help us keep our vital libraries open!
For a copy of our suggested letter, click here.
To find out how to contact your legislator, click here for an interactive map.