Nutter, Clarke again tout alternate school-funding plans
DESPITE Mayor Nutter's ongoing push for City Council to support Gov. Corbett's school-funding plan, Council President Darrell Clarke announced yesterday that he's moving forward with an alternative proposal when the body returns from its legislative break today.
At a news conference inside City Hall yesterday, Nutter again urged members to back Corbett's plan for the city to borrow $50 million against an extension of the 1 percent city sales-tax increase for the schools. The proposal also would give schools $120 million of the revenue raised from a sales-tax extension starting in 2015.
At his own news conference, Clarke said he plans to introduce legislation today to give the schools $50 million in exchange for vacant school property, which the city would then sell.
Clarke stood with six Council members before large photos of school property and noted that eight schools with an estimated value of $106 million have seriously interested buyers.
"This is real," he said. "This whole notion that we can't find a repurposing of schools in neighborhoods . . . that's ridiculous."
Nutter does not appear to have support on Council for his plan. He recently submitted sales-tax legislation to Council, but it's unclear whether any Council member will introduce the bill.
So is Nutter's plan dead?
"Passing the sales tax at the moment in any form other than what was authorized by the General Assembly will not be effective," Nutter said. "They'll have to make the decision for themselves, but hopefully again, decision making will be done in the context of what's in the best interest for our schoolchildren and financial stability of the school district."
Nutter also urged Corbett to release a $45 million onetime grant that was contingent on securing union work-rule changes and for the General Assembly to approve the cigarette tax.
The Nutter administration had been working with the school district to help it unload some of its vacant property, and the mayor recently announced a streamlined approach to make it happen. But Nutter argues that the city's value of the 23 properties that were closed this year may differ from what buyers are willing to pay and that some in blighted neighborhoods may not sell for years.
Clarke said the city could provide incentives for purchasing school property.
Superintendent William Hite said the district would need the money by February, but for now City Hall remains divided on how to get there.
"Whether the mayor signs on or compromises remains to be seen," said Councilman Wilson Goode Jr. "The ball is in City Council's court."
Meanwhile, Nutter announced a new fundraising effort to help teachers purchase classroom supplies. Nutter challenged businesses to raise $500,000 for the fund by Oct. 15 and $2.5 million by 2018.
The city will contribute $200,000 this year and $1 million over five years. To donate, visit UnitedForImpact.org/ teachersupplies.
On Twitter: @Jan_Ransom