Office Of The Mayor
Vaughn D. Spencer
State of the City Report
January 30, 2012
Ladies and Gentleman, Distinguished Guests, Members of City Council, Elected Leaders, and Fellow Citizens:
Thank you all for taking the time today to attend my first State of the City Address.
We are all aware of the dire circumstances that the City’s finances are in as we continue to comply with the Act 47 Recovery plan and the 174 initiatives that we must undertake through 2014 to improve the City of Reading’s financial stability. We come into the fiscal year of 2012 with a deficit of 2.4 million dollars.
As far as the revenue numbers go, the City received a little over 19 million dollars in Real Estate Taxes, almost $50,000 more than the budgeted 18.9 million. Earned Income Taxes, budgeted for 11.8 million came in at 11.5 million, a 2% deficit. Act 511 Taxes came in at 4.7 million, a 16% shortage from the budgeted 5.6 million. Licenses, Permits and Fines collected were 4.9 million with a budget of 6.1 million, a 20% shortfall. Intergovernmental revenue was 10.4 million with a budget of 9.7 million, a surplus of 7%.
The expenditure side looks like this: Police expenses were 26.2 million with a budget of 26.1 million; Fire and EMS expenses were slightly above the budget of 14.32 million at 116,791 dollars; Public Works expenses were 6.5 million with a budget of 5.9 million; Community Development was 4% under budget at 2.6 million with a 2.7 million budget; Managing Director was 2% under budget at $306,000 with a budget of $312,000; City Council was also 2% under at 2.7 million with a budget of 2.8 million; and the Mayor’s office was 15% under with expenses of $239,000 with a budget of $281,000, Debt Service was 32.7 million with a budget of 11.7 million.
As I mentioned before, the net result of our budget leaves us with a 2.4 million dollar structural deficit that still needs to be addressed. The City has taken action in several important Act 47 mandates to further improve our long-term financial health, including the closeout of the 2002 bond swap agreement and thanks to the hard work of our finance staff, we’ve cleared out the City’s due to/due from transactions which will provide additional cash on hand to pay down unfunded debt service. However, even with these improvements, we have important work to do and my administration will continue to make strong fiscal management a priority.
The numbers may not look good, however numbers don’t tell the complete story of the State of the City. I come before you today to report that the State of our City is Optimistic.
From Day One of my Administration, we made it our priority to make our city’s neighborhoods safer. Last year, compared to 2010, the number of reported Robberies, Assaults, and Burglaries were slightly down, and reported Auto Thefts dropped significantly. Our dedicated Police Department is committed to keeping that downward trend going, and we are going to provide them with the resources to do so. A few short weeks ago, our administration added 25 new officers to our already world-class police force—officers that will be actively involved in securing our streets, protecting our businesses and providing peace of mind to our residents.
But if we are to eliminate the root causes of crime in our City, we must do more. I believe our youth are our future—and we will do everything in our power to help them become productive members of our community. That’s why I am committed to the Reading Recreation Commission’s success.
As it stands today, the City of Reading is the poorest in the nation. The poverty rate among residents is over 40%. Those are the facts. But so are these. Last week, we unveiled an economic development initiative that I had been working on with my Sustainability Committee for almost two years. We have been working with Neil Seldman, president of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, to bring three new companies to Reading. Combined, those companies will create over 130 family-sustaining jobs for City residents. And this is only the beginning. We’re bringing jobs back to Reading.
Today, my message to entrepreneurs, investors, and business leaders everywhere is this: if you have a plan to create sustainable jobs for Reading residents and bring business into our city, you have my word that we will do everything in our power to help you succeed.
I’m proud to say that my administration has already begun the process of bringing major private investment from places like Lancaster and New York, including Think Loud, the development arm of the multi-platinum rock band Live, who have already invested heavily in the Outlet District.
My staff is working with the CD department to streamline their procedures, eliminate unnecessary regulations, and cut through the red tape. We’re going to make it easier to start or expand a business in Reading. My City Hall is going to be a Business Friendly City Hall.
But entrepreneurs and business owners can only do so much. They need trained, skilled workers to make their operations profitable, and I’m committed to helping them. Earlier today, I signed a contract with United Community Services to provide the City with a First Source Employment Referral Service—a program that helps Reading residents navigate the public hiring process. In the coming weeks, I will be meeting with leaders at educational institutions across the City to find out how the City can help them to provide more residents with the skills local businesses are looking for right now. My administration is going to help Reading residents get back to work by providing job training and placement opportunities.
As you are all aware, the City of Reading entered Act 47 status two years ago. My administration is going to pick up the pace, get the Plan fully implemented, and get Reading out of Act 47.
I am committed to sound fiscal management. My administration will not tolerate financial mismanagement or the use of accounting tricks. We will not substitute quick fixes for long-term solutions. Moving forward my administration will work closely with the Act 47 coordinator and City Council to further improve our budgeting and accounting practices to insure the City remains on a responsible fiscal path that controls costs and stabilizes revenues.
My Administration will be implementing a short-term Tax Amnesty Program that will allow residents who haven’t paid their fair share to do so without penalty. After that, I will be directing my finance division to aggressively collect all taxes owed to the City. I believe these fiscally responsible policies will help us build our tax base, revitalize our business districts, and pay down our city’s debt.
One of the main reasons I ran for Mayor was to make the City where I was born and raised a better place to live, work, and raise a family. I made a commitment to improve the quality of life for all of the people of the city, and I intend to follow through.
I believe that Reading is a beautiful city that has been tarnished by years of neglect. Our City has magnificent architecture and a rich, vibrant history. Our streets have quaint charm and modern splendor. I am committed to cleaning up our streets, revitalizing our neighborhoods, renovating our buildings, and restoring Reading. It’s going to take hard work, but I believe that together, we can remove the tarnish and make Reading shine once more.
And just as important as cleaning up our streets is cleaning up the way we govern. I made a commitment to the people of Reading to run an open and transparent government, and that’s exactly what I intend to do. From day one of my administration, we have been working to change the way things are done in City Hall.
One of my very first acts as Mayor was to create an Initiatives Compliance Committee (ICC) to monitor our progress on the proposals I’ve laid out in my plan. For too long, Reading has been a city characterized by inaction—we commission a plan, talk about it for a while, put it on a shelf, then never look at it again. That stops with my Administration. We’re going to follow through. We’re going to be proactive. We’re going to take control of our city’s future.
As some of you may have read, I’ve implemented a new communications policy to provide the citizens of Reading with constant, accurate updates on what is going on in the city. I believe that an informed public is an empowered public—and that’s why my administration has aggressively reached out to all media outlets, from Facebook to BCTV and more. The people of Reading deserve to know what is really going on, and I intend to make sure they always will.
Friends, fellow citizens: the State of Our City is optimistic.
The process will not be easy. But Reading can no longer afford to allow fear of the unknown to paralyze us. Reading can no longer afford another day or month or year of business as usual.
The fact is that we can do better, we must do better and we will do better. There is light at the end of the tunnel. Reading’s best days have yet to come.
It starts with you. It starts with me. And it starts today. This is our moment. This is our time. Together, let’s roll up our sleeves and make Reading a better place to live, work, and raise a family.
Thank you and God Bless You.