Schools need $, plus AVI makes for complicated budget season

SRC Chairman Pedro Ramos has his work cut out for him to help the school district close a huge budget deficit.

When Mayor Nutter presented his $3.75 billion budget proposal two weeks ago it did not include additional revenue for the cash-poor school district.

But elected officials knew the request was coming.

At a School Reform Commission meeting tonight, officials revealed that they plan to ask the city for $60 million and the state for $120 million to help close a $304 million gap. School officials recently voted to close 23 schools and asked the union for $133 million annually in givebacks.

In a statement Nutter said he will ask Gov. Corbett and the General Assembly to support additional funding for schools and "We will very seriously consider this new SRC request for more funds for public education in Philadelphia in the context of the overall city budget and tax rate."

This budget season will be a tricky one as the city is moving to a new property-tax system based on market values known as the Actual Value Initiative. Under AVI some will see their tax bills drop while others will see jaw-dropping increases.

Nutter's budget included no major cuts or tax hikes. Under AVI he wants to collect the same amount of revenue in property-taxes as the previous year with a 1.32 percent tax rate. City Council members have said they want to have the lowest tax rate possible while providing relief to ease the burden under AVI, but the needs of a struggling school district could further complicate things.

The School Reform Commission will officially make its request to Council at a budget hearing scheduled for April 24. Council increased property taxes for the last two years to help provide money for schools, though it's not clear what will happen this time.

"I don't know if we can do it," said Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez. "We definitely have to consider it. We would consider it more if the state came through. This is assuming there are a lot of givebacks in union concessions and that number gets bigger if that's not done."

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