Allentown council member has ambitious budget proposal

Written by on April 28, 2021

Allentown council member has ambitious budget proposal

By Ben Stemrich

April 28, 2021

Photo | Ben Stemrich / WLVR

Allentown budget talks are still months away, but one city leader is proposing a radical new spending plan. The mayor typically proposes the budget to the city council, but a current member has his own plan, and it includes diverting funds from policing to social programs. 

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Josh Siegel is a progressive council member in his first term. His proposal would divest $25 million from the police department, cutting it by more than 60% over time.

“The money is there, it’s in the budget, it’s that we have chosen to prioritize different uses for those dollars because we believe that spending money in that way is going to deliver the outcomes we want. So obviously we spend 33% of our budget on police $41 million a year because we believe that’s the safest way to keep the city to live in but I would argue that that’s not what’s happening,” Siegel says.

He has other ideas on how to spend the money.

“To really create, in my opinion, a more holistic approach to public safety as well as community revitalization that actually revolves around investing in people,” Siegel says, “I’m calling for a universal pre-k education here in Allentown, a year-round homeless shelter, a historic investment in homeownership and I’m creating what’s called youth service corps,” Siegel says.

He’s also proposing cuts to staffing which would lead to lower pension costs. 

Over the past year, some council members have shown contempt for the idea of cutting the police budget. The plan would also include a county-wide 1.5% sales tax increase. 

In Allentown, budget proposals typically take place in December and are enacted in July at the end of the fiscal year. Siegel says he’ll announce more details on the proposal in the near future.

Any budget would have to be approved by city council. 

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