Thursday, July 24, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Will schools budget explode if Council doesn't pass AVI?

The School District is staring down a $218 million deficit in the next fiscal year, officials announced today at a press conference.

Will schools budget explode if Council doesn't pass AVI?

Thomas Knudsen, the district´s chief recovery officer.
Thomas Knudsen, the district's chief recovery officer. SARAH J. GLOVER / Staff Photographer

The School District is staring down a $218 million deficit in the next fiscal year, officials announced today at a press conference.

But if Council doesn’t pass Mayor Nutter’s Actual Value Initiative — or raise revenues in some other way — the district will face an even bigger shortfall. 

“I don’t even want to think about the consequences” of that, said Thomas Knudsen, the district’s Chief Recovery Officer, yesterday.

Under Nutter’s plan, the city will collect about $94 million more in property taxes next fiscal year, which will go to the school district. Critics call this a tax hike, but the Nutter administration says it’s simply collecting more taxes bec ause property values have risen.

The School District’s budget plan, which must be approved by the School Reform Commission, makes big changes in order to deal with financial woes. The district expects to close 40 schools in 2013, cut the per-pupil payment for charter schools by 7 percent in 2013, and save $156 million over several years by revamping personnel benefits and wages. It will also reduce the size of the central office.

So if the district doesn’t get an extra $94 million as planned, will it have to close even more schools next year? Will it be forced to cut the per-pupil payment even further? What will happen? After all, Nutter's Actual Value Initiative is far from a done deal.

Knudsen declined to provide details to "It's Our Money."

“I don’t want to be specific because it’s a very difficult circumstance,” he said.

He did offer one hint, however: “The non-mandated programs would be certainly something that we would have to look at first.”

Knudsen said Council has been given an analysis of what what would happen if the district didn’t receive an additional $94 million, including the effects on individual schools. He also said the district is making plans in case it doesn’t get these funds.

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Every year, city government spends slightly more than $4 billion. Where does all that money come from? More importantly, where does it go? Are we getting the most bang for our tax buck? “It's Our Money” is a joint project between Philadelphia Daily News and WHYY, funded by the William Penn Foundation, designed to answer these questions.

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