The Philadelphia School District will receive an additional $50 million in state funds this fiscal year under the spending plan approved Wednesday in Harrisburg, district officials said.
While that's $6 million less than expected, officials said the shortfall was manageable and could be partially offset by the district's share of funds collected from ride-sharing services in the city.
"I do think that it is important to acknowledge the governor, the leaders of both parties, and the Philadelphia delegation," Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. said during a short news briefing on the budget Thursday.
"All of those groups worked hard to help craft an agreement that brought in an additional $50 million for the School District," he said. "And it is equally important it is July and not February."
The $2.8 billion budget that the School Reform Commission adopted in late May anticipated $1.4 billion from the state, including $56 million more than last year in basic education and special education funds. The spending plan the legislature approved trimmed that amount to $50 million.
"The fact is that we are very close to what we had projected in state revenues," Hite said.
"And knowing this in July makes it much easier," said Uri Monson, the district's chief financial officer. "We can manage it."
The state revenue package included a provision that allows ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft to operate in the city through at least the end of September. The services will have to pay 1 percent of the gross receipts they collect from city fares to the Philadelphia Parking Authority. Two-thirds of the money collected will go to the district.
The arrangement was crafted after the SRC adopted the 2016-17 budget. Monson and Hite said they were still trying to determine how much money the school system could receive from ride-sharing services and when the provision would take effect.
Hite said the district also would benefit in future years from a measure that allows the city to continue to impose a $2-per-pack tax on cigarettes for city schools.
That law, which the legislature passed in 2014 and generated $59 million last year, called for the tax to end July 1, 2019. But the newly passed spending plan removes the sunset provision and guarantees the district will receive at least $58 million each year.
Monson said the district expected to receive between $55 million and $56 million from the cigarette tax this year. He said the district believes the state has agreed to make up the gap to ensure city schools receive at least $58 million.
"This is a long-term help as we look to achieve a long-term structural balance," Monson said.
During a presentation to City Council in May, Monson and Hite said the district wanted to begin talks with city and state officials because they were concerned about projected revenue shortfalls in 2019, including the loss of cigarette funds.
Hite said that the welcome continuation of the cigarette tax would help the district as it seeks to stabilize its finances.
"We are beginning to stabilize now, which creates a different conversation," he said.
Hite said that instead of making cuts and eliminating programs, the district is able to talk about making investments to improve the education of the district's 134,538 students.