The Office of the Director of Finance is responsible for the financial, accounting, and budgetary functions of the City of Philadelphia, setting city-wide fiscal policy guidelines, as well as providing oversight and direction on financial matters to all City and quasi-governmental agencies. In addition, Finance includes a Risk Management division that analyzes and manages city-wide insurance needs, as well as other risk exposure issues; the Office of Administrative Review that administers the adjudication process for taxpayer appeals of all city assessments or bills (with the exception of real estate tax assessments and tax principal); and a contract management unit that provides daily advice and guidance to various departments on compliance with Chapter 17-1400 of the Philadelphia Code.
Also under the purview of the Finance Director are the Revenue Department, whose mission is to set and interpret tax regulations, and collect all taxes and other fee revenue from the taxpayers of the City of Philadelphia; the City Treasurer, who oversees the management and investment of the City’s cash, as well as recommending and implementing policies regarding all City debt; and the Board of Pensions and Retirement, who manages all City Pension processes and oversees investment of the City Pension Fund.
Under the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter, the City Solicitor is the chief legal officer and counselor for the City. The City Solicitor represents the Mayor, and his Administration, City Council and more than 30 City departments, commissions and agencies. The City Solicitor manages the Law Department.
The City of Philadelphia Law Department is responsible for providing legal advice to all officers, departments, boards, and commissions within the City concerning any matter arising in connection with the exercise of their official powers. Included within this responsibility is the collection of all fines, taxes and other debts owed the City, the representation of the City and its officers in litigation, the preparation of ordinances for introduction in City Council, and the negotiation and preparation of City contracts.
Listening to Citizens
Throughout an extensive public engagement process on the FY10 budget, one comment was raised consistently and more frequently than all others in both formal budget workshops and informal conversations with the Mayor and his senior staff – Philadelphia should aggressively pursue any citizen or business that owes money to the City. While the Finance, Revenue, and Law departments had already dedicated resources to the issue of increased debt collection, public support for these initiatives along with declining revenues to the City, have further prioritized these initiatives for the upcoming fiscal year.
In the past few months, an emphasis has been placed on identifying non-filers of the parking tax. Investigators have been active in the area around the stadiums during games and events, and non-compliant operators have been contacted. Thus far, new investigations have yielded $382,000 in assessments, with enforcement efforts ongoing.
The Law Department will work to identify additional savings by controlling liability costs and identifying affirmative litigation opportunities to collect money owed to the City. Additional anticipated efforts include the creation of one taxpayer database to replace two separate databases now maintained in Law and Revenue, expanding the use of collection agencies, publicizing real estate tax delinquents and introducing a tax fraud hotline.
Decrease Outside Counsel Costs
In FY10, the Law Department intends to increase its internal staff to reduce outside counsel expenditures. Based on recent trends, the Law Department expects an increase in Civil Rights matters filed against the City. By using case management methods used in prior similar lawsuits, the Law Department intends to more effectively control the City’s liability costs. The Law Department will also work with the Inspector General’s Office to identify cost recovery opportunities related to the investigations of the inappropriate use of City funds.
The City had approximately $1.9 billion of outstanding variable rate debt including General Fund, Water, Aviation and PGW when the problems began in the market one year ago. Of that amount, approximately $750 million has been restructured or refunded over the last year, bringing costs down to historical averages on these bonds. The City along with the Water Department, Airport and PGW, are currently evaluating options to best handle restructuring or refunding the remaining variable rate bonds.