By Steve Tawa

By Steve Tawa

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia City Council members have opened their annual budget hearings, listening to Mayor Michael Nutter’s top budget people describe the city’s ‘five year financial and strategic plan.’

The Mayor’s Chief of Staff Everett Gillison told Council on Monday that the five-year plan makes clear their priorities – preserving the city’s core services – by making efficient and effective use of taxpayer dollars.

The proposed $3.7-billion city budget includes setting aside $26-million as a provision for future labor agreements with municipal unions, including District Councils 33 and 47, which have been working without contracts since 2009.

Gillison acknowledges that one of the sticky points is the Nutter administration’s wish to be able to furlough workers, in the event of another economic downturn.

“Furloughs becomes one of the tools that we would like to see reflect our values that people working is better than laying them off,” Gillison said.

Several Council members side with the unions, and would rather see layoffs than furloughs, so that workers would be eligible for unemployment benefits.

The Nutter administration already has the authority to furlough exempt employees.

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