By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Two days after Mayor Nutter proposed a new tax on cigarettes and a higher liquor tax (see related story), City Council today takes a look at an alternate way of getting more cash to the schools. It involves an existing tax on commercial property owners.

City Council’s Finance committee today examines a proposal from Seventh District Councilwoman Maria Quinones Sanchez on the ‘Use and Occupancy Tax,’ or U&O, a type of property tax specific to business owners. The U&O rate must be adjusted because of the new property assessments, and Sanchez proposes setting it so that an extra $32 million would go to the School District.

She says because many business owners will see reductions, this would only lessen the reduction.

“What we’re saying to the business sector is, ‘don’t take your full reductions, leave some money on the table for our children’.”

Sanchez believes this is a better approach to getting new city funding for the schools compared to Mayor Nutter’s plan for taxing cigarettes and raising the liquor tax. His plan relies on state authorization, hers does not.

“This is a simple way, a cost-neutral way, at getting the School District the money they want without picking bad policy.”

Today’s hearing is drawing dozens of speakers in support and opposition.

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