Mayor Nutter on Monday warned again of the School District of Philadelphia's "looming crisis" of lay-offs and other cost-cutting measures, and called on "responsible adults" to come to the rescue of the city's school children.
Specifically, the mayor is asking City Council to pass bills that would create a cigarette tax and increase the liquor-by-the-drink tax, both part of his plan to raise $95 million toward the $304 million deficit in the school district's budget. He's also calling on state legislators to give the necessary approval for those taxes.
"The stakes are very, very high," Nutter said, during a news conference outside his City Hall office. "This is a very serious moment of crisis."
On Friday, the district announced that lay-off notices would be sent to nearly 3,800 employees, including teachers, assistant principals, guidance counselors and support staff. Nutter said those lay-offs would not only devastate Philadelphia but the surrounding economy for "the next decade or two."
"We're talking about ending school as any of us have known it," he said. "All of that can be prevented by the actions of responsible adults."
Council has moved the bill to create the cigarette tax, and it could win final approval this week. The bill to increase the liquor-by-the-drink tax, opposed by bar and restaurant owners, remains stuck in committee for a lack of support.
State authorization for both bills also faces an uphill battle in Harrisburg.
Nutter, however, said many school districts across the state are facing similar financial problems and "there is in many quarters an interest and effort…to figure out how we address the Philadelphia challenge."
Council has only two more meetings scheduled before the summer recess – one Thursday and one on June 20. If the members stick to that schedule, they will have to pass the liquor-by-the-drink tax out of committee on Wednesday for a first reading at Thursday's meeting.
"This should be a week of action," Nutter said.
He declined to discuss his lobbying of Council members.
"We have 17 independently-elected people who have to make up their own minds about how much funding they want to try to provide for the school children," he said. "It seems to me that the responsible thing to do is to try to provide as much funding for the education of our children."