Wednesday, July 23, 2014
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Plan to fund $60 million School District request begins to take shape

Mayor Nutter's plan to fund the School District's request for an extra $60 million in city funding is beginning to take shape.

Plan to fund $60 million School District request begins to take shape

Philadelphia High School for Creative And Performing Arts sophomore student Brenna Schiman holds a sign protesting budget cuts at the Philadelphia School District Headquarters on Tuesday, May 7, 2013.  ( Yong Kim / Staff Photographer )
Philadelphia High School for Creative And Performing Arts sophomore student Brenna Schiman holds a sign protesting budget cuts at the Philadelphia School District Headquarters on Tuesday, May 7, 2013. ( Yong Kim / Staff Photographer )

Most of the details are unknown, but Mayor Nutter's plan to fund the School District's request for an extra $60 million in city funding is beginning to take shape.

At least one thing seems certain: The city won't raise property-tax revenues this year.

City Finance Director Rob Dubow said Wednesday that Nutter, who has promised to keep revenues flat for the first year of the Actual Value Initiative, will not support using the property tax to increase aid for the schools, as the city has done the past two years. (Because of AVI, many residents will see increases and many will see decreases, but total collections should stay around $1.2 billion.)

Dubow also hinted that the administration isn't eager to find the money through the wage tax. Nutter has proposed restarting wage-tax cuts that were halted during the recession. Dubow declined to say if retracting that proposal was off the table, but he did say this:

"Our five-year plan has wage-tax reductions, and we are committed to those reductions."

So without touching the city's two largest taxes (which are projected to provide about 69 percent of revenue next year), how will the city find $60 million?

In bits and pieces, it seems.

A proposal that may have wide support is raising the "liquor by the drink" tax from 10 percent to 15 percent. A Nutter spokesman recently said the mayor supports such a hike, which would bring in an estimated $20 million in new revenue.

Raising the tobacco sales tax is also said to be on the table.

And, of course, the city could cut spending or forego some of Nutter's proposals for new expenditures, like $1 million to increase library hours and another $1 million to offset tuition hikes at the Community College of Philadelphia.

All of this, however, must past muster with a majority of City Council members, some of whom are skeptical about sending any additional money to the school system, let alone $60 million.

Nutter is holding a press conference tomorrow with state lawmakers and top education officials to rally support for the School District's budget request, which also asked for $120 million from the state and $133 million in labor savings.

Some Council members have criticized him for calling on them to support the $60 million request without putting forward a plan to pay for it. The administration says it is working with Council to formulate one.

Council and the mayor are supposed to approve a budget by the end of the month, but negotiations typically go through the end of June, when the current fiscal year ends. 

About this blog
Chris Brennan, a native Philadelphian and graduate of Temple University, joined the Daily News in 1999. He has written about SEPTA, the Philadelphia School District, the legalization of casino gambling, state government, the mayor, the governor, City Council and political campaigns. E-mail tips to brennac@phillynews.com
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Jenny DeHuff is a 2005 graduate of the University of Rhode Island, where she cut her teeth in journalism. A South Philly transplant from New England, she joined the Daily News City Hall Bureau in 2013. For the past several years, she has worked as an investigative reporter exposing corruption in suburban politics, covering sometimes ghastly criminal court cases and following the people’s money and how its spent. In addition to being a dogged news hound, she enjoys reading and writing about travel, animals, Irish whiskey and aviation. E-mail tips to dehuffj@phillynews.com
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Sean Collins Walsh is from Bucks County and went to Northwestern University. He joined the Daily News copy desk in 2012 and now covers the Nutter administration. Before that, he interned at papers including The New York Times, The Dallas Morning News and The Seattle Times. E-mail tips to walshSE@phillynews.com
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