City tax revenue down by nearly half, indicating impact of virus

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Philadelphia officials revealed the earliest indication of the coronavirus’ impact on the city budget: April tax revenue is down by almost half from a year ago.

“This April decline certainly represents the tremendous drop in economic activity throughout the city as a result of the shutdown,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “Our anticipation of this sort of drop is what led our administration last week to propose a belt-tightening budget for the coming fiscal year.”

Specifically, April 2020 collections totaled $385 million — 47% lower than April 2019. Some of the decline is due to the extension in the deadline for filing the city’s business income receipts tax, from April 15 to July 15. 

Budget officials say the projections in the revised budget are based on the assumption that reopening starts this summer, but Kenney said there’s still no fixed date. 

The mayor expects an even steeper drop in May receipts. 

The bad economic news comes as the health outlook is improving. Not only does the number of new COVID-19 cases continue to decline, but Health Commissioner Dr. Tom Farley says it’s declining faster.

“All the data says that, in general, we’re moving in the right direction, that the actions we’re taking are slowing the spread of the virus,” he said. “That’s a very good thing.”

The decline is evident in nursing homes, jails and hospitals, too.

“The trend in the number of cases is clearly downward, and it may be that it’s picking up speed in the way it’s going down,” Farley added.

Still, there were 350 new cases confirmed Thursday. The city has reported more than 17,000 cases of COVID-19 and 816 deaths since the beginning of the crisis.

Kenney also addressed heightened traffic offenses during his daily press briefing. 

Throughout all of April, only three traffic fatalities were recorded. This week alone, the Philadelphia Police Department reported three deaths from traffic fatalities.

He warned residents that disobeying traffic laws during the stay-at-home order will not be tolerated.

“With fewer cars on the roads, some people think it is OK to speed, make illegal movements, or run red lights and stop signs. This unsafe behavior has to stop,” he said.

The mayor also noted an uptick in groups riding dirt bikes and ATVs, which are illegal to operate on city streets. 

The city still has no plans to lift the stay-at-home order any time soon. 

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For more resources regarding COVID-19, visit phila.gov/covid-19 or call the Greater Philadelphia Coronavirus Helpline at 1-800-722-7112.