Sanchez suggests plan to find $50 extra million for schools

María Quiñones-Sánchez
María Quiñones-Sánchez
Posted: August 02, 2013

CITY COUNCILWOMAN Maria Quinones-Sanchez thinks Gov. Corbett's recently approved plan to help the School District of Philadelphia close a massive budget gap is too risky, and yesterday she called on the city to do more.

Sanchez wants the city to send a onetime grant of up to $50 million to restore school nurses, counselors, safety staff and other services - all of which are in jeopardy in the face of a $304 million budget hole. The funding would become available because tax revenues are now expected to be higher than initially anticipated, Sanchez said.

Corbett's rescue plan attempted to fill part of that budget gap with a onetime infusion of $45 million, which was a debt that was forgiven by the federal government, and $15.9 million in state money, most of which the district already accounted for in its budget.

The final, most controversial element of the plan allows the district to borrow $50 million against projected revenue from an extension of the 1 percent sales-tax increase. Local elected officials had been looking at that funding source as a way to tackle the city's financially draining pension fund.

And Sanchez says borrowing that money would add $15 million a year in borrowing costs to the district's debt.

"You can't tie our hands and limit our funding," Sanchez said. She noted that the specifics of her proposal still need to be finalized.

The Nutter administration did not provide comment late last night.

"We have the opportunity to make a significant short-term investment in our schools and prevent a looming catastrophe," Sanchez said.

She urged Harrisburg to approve enhanced tax-collection legislation and a $2-per-pack tax on cigarettes. Council approved the tax increase in June, but state lawmakers did not pass legislation that would enable the city to enact the measure, which would bring in $46 million in its first year. State Sen. Anthony Williams plans on reintroducing it in the fall.

Sanchez said the city should revisit her earlier proposal to raise money for schools through a business tax known as use and occupancy, a shift in the millage rate for property taxes and Council President Darrell Clarke's proposals to advertise on city-owned property and sell off municipal assets.

Clarke, whom the Daily News was unable to reach for comment last night, has also been pushing an alternative plan that would split money raised from the sales tax between schools and the pension fund.

The district sent out more than 3,700 layoff notices in June but restored about 300 jobs last week.

On Twitter: @Jan_Ransom


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