Friday, July 25, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Councilman: Schools shouldn't have counted on extra $

Councilman Jim Kenney says the School District shouldn't have counted on receiving an additional $94 million from the city this fiscal year. Doing so, he says in a letter, "has simply continued a pattern of financial mismanagement that has forced deep cuts to important education programs."

Councilman: Schools shouldn't have counted on extra $

Councilman Jim Kenney sent a letter to Thomas Knudsen, the chief recovery officer for the School District, about his budget concerns.
Councilman Jim Kenney sent a letter to Thomas Knudsen, the chief recovery officer for the School District, about his budget concerns.

Councilman Jim Kenney says the School District shouldn't have counted on receiving an additional $94 million from the city this fiscal year. Doing so, he says in a letter, "has simply continued a pattern of financial mismanagement that has forced deep cuts to important education programs."

He's also sick of Council being criticized for not sending more money to the schools, he says, even though it voted last month to give schools an extra $40 million.

"It's not even appreciated," he says. "Harrisburg, what are they doing? We're doing our best."

Kenney sent a letter to Thomas Knudsen, the chief recovery officer for the School District, outlining his concerns (and later posted it on Facebook).

School District spokeswoman Evelyn Sample-Oates did not respond for comment.

Read the letter from Kenney to Knudsen after the jump.

Dear Mr. Knudsen, 

I am writing in response to your comment in the Philadelphia Inquirer on July 8. You are quoted blaming City Council for "complicat[ing] the [School District's] circumstances" by not approving the Actual Value Initiative (AVI). Your statement is flawed: City Council did not refuse to approve a well-planned policy that would have provided critical funds to a responsible School District; rather, the Administration failed to provide Council with crucial details necessary for us to make an informed decision, and the School District presumptuously included an inflated revenue figure in its budget plan.

AVI has been discussed for at least five years, but even as we were pressed this year to vote for dramatic increases in property taxes for some property owners, the Administration could not provide details about what those hikes would be and who they would impact. Council could not — and should not — have supported something as fundamental as property tax reform without knowing these details.

And that's why the School District should not have included the Administration’s projected $94 million in AVI revenue in their budget. Doing so has simply continued a pattern of financial mismanagement that has forced deep cuts to important education programs. As the City has not had control over our schools for a decade, it is impossible to blame City Council for the staggering situation the School District currently faces.

City Council has repeatedly shown it is willing to make difficult choices to support our schools and I had hoped that with new leadership at the School District, we'd be able to build a positive working relationship that improves our schools. Your inaccurate finger pointing will make that more difficult.

Respectfully,

James F. Kenney
Councilman-At-Large

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