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It's your budget, be part of the process

Find out who represents you on the City Council and reach out to let them know where your priorities are for the city budget.

Here you can find instructions on how to sign up to comment on council meetings and how to speak at public hearings. You can review the agendas on the calendar here and watch meetings live here.

The official website for the Office of the Mayor provides basic information and a contact number, but you can also reach out using this form.

Mural Arts Philadelphia’s 2024 People’s Budget project allows residents of Philadelphia to co-create, learn, empower, and engage in the City of Philadelphia budget process. On April 25 from 12:30 – 2:00 pm in the Caucus Room at City Hall, they will be hosting The People’s Budget Roundtable: a performance that mimics a budget hearing with residents, business owners, advocates, and city workers.

And from May 1 through June 21, The People’s Budget Office will be set up in LOVE Park, serving as a resource hub and engagement space to learn about the city budget and contribute funding priorities.


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One of the founding tenets of The Philadelphia Citizen is to get people the resources they need to become better, more engaged citizens of their city.

We hope to do that in our Good Citizenship Toolkit, which includes a host of ways to get involved in Philadelphia — whether you want to contact your City Councilmember about where our tax dollars are spent, get those experiencing homelessness the goods they need, or simply go out to dinner somewhere where you know your money is going toward a greater good.

Find an issue that’s important to you in the list below, and get started on your journey of A-plus citizenship.

Vote and strengthen democracy

Stand up for marginalized communities

Create a cleaner, greener Philadelphia

Help our local youth and schools succeed

Support local businesses


To this story in CitizenCast

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Your City Defined: The City Budget

Mayor Parker kicked off budget season with her $6 billion budget proposal to City Council. Here’s what that means, and what happens now

Your City Defined: The City Budget

Mayor Parker kicked off budget season with her $6 billion budget proposal to City Council. Here’s what that means, and what happens now

In the decades before the Declaration of Independence was issued from this very city, American colonists roiled under the tinderbox issue of British taxation without parliamentary representation. What we won through 25,000 lost souls and the spending of a whopping 35 percent of our national GDP (roughly 10 trillion dollars today), is the ability to tax ourselves through the election of our own representatives.

Considering how many tax dodgers there were in Colonial America, I doubt folks were itching to pay their taxes just as long as it was a fairer process, but at least 18th-century Americans had earned the right to cast a vote for the people who were directly involved in our taxation. If you were White. And male. And owned land.

Far from perfect, but the tradition of electing representatives with an eye toward taxation continues to this day. Well, for the three in 10 registered Philadelphia voters who actually vote, according to the most recent midterms.

Casting that ballot is certainly important, but it’s not the end of our representative taxation. Elections may determine who gets to tax us, but we also get a say in how that money is spent. This is where the annual city budget enters the picture.

Taxation with representation doesn’t mean a whole hell of a lot if we don’t get a say in how those taxes are spent.

Each spring, after the mayor delivers a proposed budget, City Council holds hearings to get public feedback about how our taxes should be spent. Half of those taxes are already committed to fixed costs like the pension fund or interest payments. That leaves roughly half — around $3 billion — to be allocated as we, through our electeds, see fit.

This process is happening right now so Council can approve a budget in time for the start of fiscal year 2025 on July 1, 2024.

One budget for one Philadelphia

One thing that makes the City budget different from, say, the federal budget, is the ironclad law that our budget must be balanced. That comes from this clause of the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter (1951):

Not later than the passage of the annual operating budget ordinance, the Council shall ordain such revenue measures as will yield sufficient revenue to balance the budget.

Factoring in what the City receives each year through local taxes, fines, and state and federal aid, this ultimately places a cap on what Philadelphia can spend.

The whole process actually starts each fall when city departments review the previous year’s expenses and make funding requests to the Budget Office to review In the winter. Then we wait for the mayor to deliver her budget address to City Council (a stand-in for Philadelphia’s State of the Union).

Then follows a months-long negotiation with City Councilmembers, who have their own priorities and projects. They spend this time questioning department heads about their budget requests — and hearing from citizens about what they want to see funded (or not).

“Voting is necessary. But it’s not sufficient to creating the kind of change people really want to see in their communities.” — Lauren Cristella, Committee of Seventy

In March 2024 Mayor Cherelle Parker released her first budget proposal. And it was a mayoral budget address unlike anything the chamber had seen.

“My name is Cherelle L. Parker and I am the 100th mayor of Philadelphia,” Madame Mayor thundered from the Council podium. “I propose this One Philly budget to the City Council of Philadelphia with $2 billion of new investments in the people of this wonderful city. And I want you to know that I approve this message! Today is just the beginning! I’m coming to a neighborhood near you for a budget briefing and a town hall meeting! Let’s work together toward its passage and implementation for the people!”

You can hear the “Bah Humbugs” slipping from former-Mayor Kenney’s pursed lips, what with all the “happiness” and “enthusiasm” his successor is able to solicit from the room.

“If we do this together,” the mayor preached, “we will ensure — and you know what I’m going to do — put your ones up. I want them to hear us outside.”

Here, the council chamber, like excited concert attendees, stick their pointer fingers into the air in unison, and Mayor Parker leads them in a raucous chant of “One Philly! A united city!”

The showmanship of it all might make you forget momentarily that the One Philly budget she’s proposing is for $6.29 billion. That is a staggering number. It’s higher than the GDP of Montenegro. It’s also basically flat from last year, reflecting the huge spending increases under Mayor Kenney’s administration (which were almost double Mayor Michael Nutter’s last budget proposal).

Parker’s budget funnels $250 million into the Streets Department to boost street repaving and trash pickup, and $36 million to stop illegal dumping and other blight problems that plague the city.

“We must banish the phrase ‘Filthadelphia’ once and for all!”

Another $36 million will go toward housing programs.

“Don’t put me somewhere and give me subpar [homes] because I’m low income or moderate. If that were the case I wouldn’t be standing here today!”

Millions of dollars will go toward anti-violence initiatives, as well as investments in the city’s education system (including for full-day and year-round schooling pilots).

All without raising taxes.

“This is my first budget proposal as your mayor,” Parker said when she opened her address. “It’s big and it’s bold. I’m calling it the One Philly budget, and it funds the promise that I made to the people of our city.”

You get a budget! And you get a budget!

“The budget is a moral document,” says Lauren Cristella, President and CEO of the nonpartisan watchdog group Committee of Seventy. “It demonstrates where those campaign promises and priorities get implemented.”

Not every program or neighborhood project can be funded (or continued), and this is where public input becomes invaluable.“The budget is not set in stone,” says Cristella. “Change only comes about when citizens and influential groups organize to exert their will.”

Cristella points to our libraries as a good example.

“Librarians, themselves, are very organized,” she continues. Everyday citizens have joined forces with these Dewey decimal denizens and “really make the case for why they need more funding. This has happened several times over the years, and they’ve been successful. They see increases in funding that really impact the services they’re able to provide to the residents of Philadelphia.”

How, you might be asking, can I — average Joe or Gina Philadelphia — change the course of the city’s funding?

Well, you can always lean on your City Councilmembers by reaching out directly. Call them. Send a letter. Send an email. Send 50 emails. Post a TikTok dance, if TikTok is still around in a few months. That’s what the librarians did (well, emails and social media campaigns, not dances).

And then there are the public hearings, which may be the most direct means of getting your voice into Council’s ears.

“The dates and times of these hearings are made public beforehand — it’s part of our Sunshine laws,” says Cristella. “You sign up to make a comment and you have a few minutes to share your feelings and make an ask of these elected officials.”

Or make a demand.

A polite demand, let’s say. It’s your money, after all, and we didn’t fight a Revolution just to be timid about confronting the government about our taxes. The main window for these public hearings is going on right now.

“This is my first budget proposal as your mayor. It’s big and it’s bold.” — Philadelphia Mayor Cherelle Parker

Upcoming hearings, open to any citizen who signs up, will be held Wednesday, April 24, as well as Wednesday, May 1. Cristella noted that one major change from the pandemic was the ability to Zoom into these public testimony sessions, making it easier than ever to exert your will on this moral document.

And if trekking down (or Zooming in) to City Hall just ain’t your thing, City Council will even come to you. If you live near John F. Street Community Center (April 25) or West Philadelphia High School (April 29).

To support Philadelphians further, Mural Arts Philadelphia runs programs like The People’s Budget, which aims to “increase public awareness through popular education on the city’s budget process and offer a platform for residents to share what the city should fund.” These efforts were spotlighted in Citizen writer Malcolm Burnley’s most recent Ideas We Should Steal.

“Voting is necessary,” Cristella says, “but it’s not sufficient to creating the kind of change people really want to see in their communities.”

Sign up to make your voice heard at the next public hearing here (requests must be made before 3pm on the day prior). Representative government depends on direct and unfettered feedback from its citizens, and taxation with representation doesn’t mean a whole hell of a lot if we don’t get a say in how those taxes are spent.


Philadelphia Mayor Cherelle Parker (center) during her March 14, 2024 budget address. Members of City Council around her, left to right: Isaiah Thomas, Kenyatta Johnson, Katherine Gilmore Richardson. Photo by Albert Lee.

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