More money for schools is tall order for city

Nutter
Nutter
Posted: April 01, 2013

WHEN MAYOR NUTTER presented his $3.75 billion budget proposal two weeks ago, it did not include additional money for the cash-poor school district.

But elected officials knew the request was coming.

School officials had already voted to close 23 schools and asked the union for $133 million annually in givebacks. Finally, on Thursday, School Reform Commission members said they would ask the city for $60 million and the state for $120 million to help close a $304 million gap.

That request is complicated by the city's move to Nutter's property-tax reform system, the Actual Value Initiative. City Council members want the lowest possible tax rate while easing the blow to homeowners whose taxes will rise under AVI.

In a statement, Nutter said he will ask Gov. Corbett and the Legislature to support additional funding for schools, and will "very seriously consider" the SRC's request. His budget included no major cuts or tax hikes and it's unclear how the city would raise additional money for schools or if it can win Council approval.

Having provided schools with additional funding three years in a row, some Council members say the request has come at the most inopportune time.

"You're right on the heels of AVI. It's going to be an uphill battle," said Councilman Curtis Jones Jr., adding that issues including contracts with the city's blue- and white-collar unions and an underfunded pension fund remain unresolved. "We will be looking to Harrisburg."

"It'll be a lot harder for nine Council members to look at where you come up with another $60 million," said Councilman Mark Squilla, whose district includes Center City, Fishtown, Northern Liberties and parts of South Philly, some of the hardest-hit areas under AVI. "It's going to be a tough sale."

He said this is a good opportunity for the administration to collect on delinquent taxes. He also said Council may look to free up extra dollars from within the budget.


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@Jan_Ransom


Blog: PhillyClout.com

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