Derek Green

Derek Green

There is currently no independent office evaluating the fiscal impacts of public policy initiatives for Philadelphia.

So City Council is considering creating one.

Councilman Derek Green, who introduced a resolution last week to hold committee hearings on the proposal, said he aimed to model the new entity on the federal Congressional Budget Office, which offers nonpartisan analyses of budgetary and economic issues to support the budget process.

“Considering that we have an almost infinite amount of needs and finite amount of resources, a third-party entity that can give us a perspective on the financial impact of implementation legislation ... may provide us additional information about how we tweak the initiative going forward,” Green said.

When City Council considers new policies or legislation, Green said, experts from either side of the issue to testify about the benefits or disadvantages to consumers, industries and the city’s budget, among other things, “but rarely do you see something that really gives an assessment of the cost of implementing legislation.”

Mayor Jim Kenney and Council President Darrell Clarke currently are reviewing the proposal. A spokeswoman for Clarke said he rarely comments about legislation before committee hearings and declined to comment.

The Committee on Commerce and Economic Development will hold hearings on the proposal in the new year. City Council is not scheduled to meet until Jan. 24.

Pennsylvania created its own Independent Fiscal Office in 2010. Other jurisdictions also have independent offices to evaluate policy and legislation, including New York City, which established its own in 1989.

Green had no cost estimate for establishing such an office and its make up remains under consideration, but Green expected it to include stakeholders from the administration, City Council, and both public and private sectors.

Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority (PICA) currently oversees the city’s finances, ruling on such things as Philadelphia’s five-year plan but not on specific policy initiatives.

The proposal comes more than a year after city officials initially discovered a $40 million discrepancy between its consolidated cash account — the largest and primary account managed by the Treasurer’s Office — and bank records. The account is supposed to be balanced everyday, but it had not been done since July 2014.

When the unaccounted funds were discovered in June 2017, six other accounts were found to have gone unbalanced for years — some dating to 2010.

This year, Philadelphia hired the Black-owned firm Horsey, Buckner & Heffler to find out what happened to the missing money. The city will dole out up to $500,000 for the audit.

As of November, the city Treasurer’s Office has accounted for all but $2.1 million of the unaccounted for funds, Dunn said. The majority of the reduction during the previous two months was due to duplicate journal entries that were made for payments that only were processed once.

In addition, all but three of the historically unreconciled accounts have been reconciled.

City officials were expected to reveal more updates on the unreconciled funds in the coming weeks.

Since the discrepancies were discovered, the city has been reconciling all city accounts monthly and conducting daily reconciliations of the consolidated cash account.

(1) comment

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This would be a plus plus on many levels. Especially when federal boards are appointed through executive authorization. We'll be empowered to determine and legislatively resolve disparity issues. Should this be questioned. Add this into the voting process.

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