Appeal from decree of Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, Sept. T., 1967, No. 1907, in case of Walter M. Phillips and Edward E. Russell v. James H. J. Tate et al.
Edward G. Bauer, Jr., City Solicitor, with him Mansfield Neal and Allan H. Gordon, Assistant City Solicitors, and Levy Anderson, First Deputy City Solicitor, for appellants.
Edward R. Becker, for appellees.
Bell, C. J., Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'Brien and Roberts, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Cohen. Dissenting Opinion by Mr. Chief Justice Bell. Dissenting Opinion by Mr. Justice Roberts. Mr. Chief Justice Bell and Mr. Justice O'Brien join in this dissenting opinion.
Section 8-100 of the Home Rule Charter of the City of Philadelphia, provides as follows: "Fiscal Year. For the present, the City's fiscal year shall be the calendar year but the Council may by ordinance adopt a different fiscal year." (Emphasis supplied).
Pursuant to this section, the Mayor of the City of Philadelphia submitted a proposed transitional operating budget covering the period from January 1, 1968 to June 30, 1969, in order to effectuate a change in the City's fiscal year. Appellees, taxpayers of the City of Philadelphia, then instituted an action in equity seeking to compel the Mayor to submit an annual operating budget and to enjoin City Council from considering the proposed 18 month budget on the basis
that the Mayor lacked the authority to submit anything other than a 12 month balanced budget. The court below held that the Mayor's proposed budget violated the Charter since it was not an annual balanced budget. From this decree the instant appeal was taken.
Since the Home Rule Charter permits City Council to adopt a different fiscal year in its discretion, we are of the opinion that the method by which such change is effectuated should also be left to the sole discretion of City Council. While we recognize that there are certain inconsistencies and conflicting provisions in the Charter in the area of budgetary matters, we do not feel that we should act as "super charterites" in dictating to City Council how it can best implement a permissive change in the City's financial structure.
There are three possible methods which could be utilized to effectuate a change in the City's fiscal year, e.g., (1) the present proposed 18 month budget; (2) a 12 month budget which would be terminated after 6 months and the submission at that time of another 12 month budget; or (3) a 6 month budget followed by a 12 month budget. In order for City Council to exercise its authority under Section 8-100 of the Charter to change the City's fiscal year, it must adopt one of the aforementioned methods. However, no matter which method is used to effectuate the transition, it would no doubt violate certain aspects of the Charter. To hold that City Council could not validly use some method to effectuate the change from one fiscal year to another, would for all practical purposes render nugatory the permission and authority granted it by § 8-100 of the Charter. In this regard, the overriding purpose of § 8-100 should prevail so as to permit City Council in its discretion to adopt any one of the three methods suggested, including the proposed 18 month budget.
Furthermore, we recognize, as do all the parties involved, that the proposed 18 month budget encompasses two substantial revenue periods while at the same time includes only one substantial expenditure period. It was readily admitted at argument by appellees that whichever procedure was adopted, including the 18 month budget, the City at the end of 18 months would be virtually in the identical financial position, notwithstanding the fact that the 18 month budget contains two revenue producing periods and only one expenditure period. In light of the ...