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Budget talks lead to debate every spring, and this year Mayor Jim Kenney’s proposed 3-cent soda tax has made the stakes higher than usual. On Sunday, the city’s Republican Party made its views on the tax clear.
City Committee chairman Joe DeFelice wrote an editorial for the Inquirer headlined "Mayor’s soda tax is a Big Gulp of folly." One of his suggestions for Kenney for dealing with funding for Pre-K, as well as Philly’s other financial problems, was to look at the size of his "own administration," which DeFelice wrote "is already 45 percent larger than his predecessor's and 40 percent more costly."
Has the mayor’s administration grown by that much under Kenney? And what actually counts as his administration?
DeFelice said he was referring to a February Inquirer article comparing the organizational structure of Kenney’s cabinet to Nutter’s. The article noted 16 people reported directly to Kenney and 11 reported to Nutter and also gave the combined salaries for the people under each mayor's watch.
Those numbers and DeFelice’s interpretation of them check out. Kenney has 16 staffers reporting directly to him. Nutter had 11, according to the last organizational chart released by the city in his tenure. That’s a 45.5 percent difference. Kenney’s 16 staffers make $2,584,872 added together. Using the 2015 salary data available for nine of Nutter’s staffers and 2013 numbers, which were the last readily available for the other two, they made $1,907,118. The percentage difference is 35.5 percent. That’s not quite 40 percent but could be charitably rounded up.
That said, Committee of Seventy President/CEO David Thornburgh said the comparison regarding the number of people who reported to the mayor wasn’t necessarily a helpful one or the same as calling it the mayor's "administration."
"People generally think of the administration in broad strokes, like 20-some-thousand people that work for the city," Thornburgh said. "That’s where it kind of hiccuped in my head. But you know politics."
City employees are grouped into different categories. Those who work under the mayor -- but don’t necessarily report to the mayor -- are considered part of the Mayor’s Office. Kenney released a flowchart detailing the office’s composition. It features 22 people, and the salaries and expenses of the Mayor’s Office total about $4.26 million, according to the proposed FY 2017 budget.
In the last year of Nutter’s tenure, his office was more expensive. According to the FY 2016 budget, the Mayor’s Office salaries and expenses totaled about $5 million.
In terms of pure size, Nutter’s administration could actually be considered larger than Kenney’s. The Nutter organizational chart, which detailed the people who report to Nutter and the people who report to them, featured 71 names, including heads of quasi-governmental agencies like DRWC and SEPTA. The same type of organizational chart for Kenney features 66 names.
Same goes for Nutter’s cabinet. According to the organizational chart released by the city, 11 people report to him, but his cabinet is actually larger. His administration listed 20 people as cabinet members in a January 2015 report about his accomplishments. That cabinet size would be larger than Kenney’s 16-person cabinet.
Kenney’s Mayor’s Office does include several new positions he created, such as digital director, deputy mayor for public engagement and chief diversity and inclusion officer. Many of these new positions command salaries of $150,000 annually. Lauren Hitt, Kenney’s director of communications, said one of the cabinet positions was created because of a charter change and two others "because of broad consensus among the public and City Council that they were needed."
The size of Philadelphia government overall has tended to grow year after year. In the last two years, the size of the city's total workforce has gone up while total salaries have gone down. In 2014, there were 29,779 total employees making $1.63 billion in yearly salary. As of March 2016, there were 30,254 making $1.57 billion.
Republican City Committee chairman Joe DeFelice suggested Mayor Jim Kenney examine the size of his administration before enacting something like the soda tax and argued it was 45 percent larger and 40 percent more costly than his predecessor Michael Nutter’s. Those numbers match up when comparing the staffers who report to Kenney to the staffers who reported to Nutter, but the reporting structure in city government doesn’t give the whole picture. Nutter’s Mayor’s Office was more costly than Kenney’s office is budgeted for this year, and his cabinet was larger than Kenney’s.
We rate the claim Half True.
Document, "Priorities and Accomplishments Update," January 2015.
Email interview, Lauren Hitt.
Email interview, Joe DeFelice.
News article, "Mayoral cabinet grows under Kenney," Philadelphia Inquirer, February 24, 2016.
News article, "Key facts and numbers from Philly's 2014 payroll," Philadelphia Inquirer, March 30, 2015.
News article, "Commentary: Mayor's soda tax is a Big Gulp of folly," Philadelphia Inquirer, April 10, 2016.
Phone interview, David Thornburgh
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