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Nutter Looks At New Taxes To Help Avert Philadelphia School Budget Crisis

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(Mayor Michael Nutter, in file photo)

(Mayor Michael Nutter, in file photo)

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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - Mayor Michael Nutter is looking to revive his failed plan to tax sodas, and to raise rates for on-street parking, in order to help bail out the School District of Philadelphia from a deficit topping $600 million.

Mayor Nutter huddled behind closed doors with City Council leaders for about an hour this morning as they grapple with the School District’s request for more than $100 million in additional city aid (see related story).

Nutter is hoping to get City Council on board with a combination of a property tax increase, a tax on sugary beverages, and a hike in on-street parking rates.

“Various combinations of those would address the size of the financial problem that we’re looking at,” he told reporters.

But councilmembers rejected his soda tax last idea year (see related story) and are hesitant to raise property taxes one year after a nearly 10-percent hike (related story).

“I don’t have a solution,” says GOP leader Brian O’Neill, who opposes both tax proposals, “but I do know that people are overtaxed.”

Fellow GOP councilman Frank Rizzo says that in light of the school district’s plight, they’ll revisit the idea of a soda tax.
“I would assume that there’s going to be a lot of people reconsidering positions that they took in the past,” he told KYW Newsradio.

Nutter and Council hope to resolve this before Council adjourns its spring session on June 16th.  Some councilmembers tend to favor simply shifting more of existing revenues to the district, rather than raise taxes, but Nutter says that would impact other city services.

The district is attempting to close a deficit put at $629 million and is hoping for more city and state aid.

Councilman Curtis Jones, a Democrat, hopes that as the politicians wrangle the school kids don’t suffer.

“There’s a high stakes poker game going on with the schools, the city, and Harrisburg,” he said. “And at the end of the day, we don’t want the kids to be the casualty.”

Reported by KYW City Hall Bureau chief Mike Dunn

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