Property tax vs. Soda Tax, Round 2

It's deja vu all over again on the 4th floor of City Hall this morning, where pre-primary election promises of no tax hikes have wilted in the face of the Philadelphia School District's budget crisis.

According to Inquirer City Hall reporter Troy Graham, City Councilman Darrell Clarke introduced a budget amendment in committee Thursday morning that would raise property taxes by about 3.5 percent. That would generate $37 million for the school district in what Clarke called an "accountability grant." The city would thus direct how the money was to be spent, most likely to fund all day kindergarten.

The grant is for one year, which would not address the district's long-term funding shortfall. Whether the maneuver is legal or has Council support is unclear.

The district is facing a budget gap of more than $600 million this year, and has asked the city for an additional $100 million, which Nutter has pushed to deliver. The district currently receives about $600 million from its share of city property taxes.

Clarke's proposal does not have the support of Mayor Nutter, who this morning revived last year's sugar-sweetened beverage tax proposal, a steep 2-cents per ounce levy on everything from Coke and Pepsi to chocolate milk and Gatorade.

It would raise $60 million this year and $80 million over a full year, all of it for schools, according to administration officials. Nutter's bill does not appear to include funding for anti-obesity programs -- part of the justification for the tax proposal in 2010. That tax was opposed by the beverage industry, Teamsters and store owners, and eventually failed. It was replaced, in part, by a 10 percent property tax hike.

Nutter did introduce his own property tax bill, which would raise about $95 milliion but administration officials have made it clear they prefer the soda-tax legislation. 

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