Philadelphia Officials Tussling Over Last $50 Million For School District

By Steve Tawa and Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Mayor Michael Nutter is playing down a rift between himself and City Council president Darrell Clarke over the school funding crisis in the Philadelphia School District.

Clarke has suggested that the city buy unused school district buildings and properties, including closed schools, for $50 million, then sell them off to developers.  He says the city would earn back the money over time.

But Mayor Nutter says the district already accounts for those school assets in its five-year spending plan.

“They have anticipated selling any number of their buildings and generating $28 million themselves from selling those buildings,” the mayor said today.

As the clock is ticking down toward the opening day of the school year, Nutter thinks a state plan to extend the city’s extra one-percent sales tax is the most viable option to help the schools (see related story).  But Clarke, the Council president, doesn’t think City Council should sign onto what he calls “a bad deal.”

In the meantime, schools superintendent William Hite says he controls spending, but not the budget process.

“They understand the sense of urgency,” Hite said today, “but I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to comment on proposals.”

Following Nutter’s remarks, the mayor met privately with Clarke.  Clarke later told reporters that even with the two at odds over how to get the emergency cash to the schools, they are committed to coming up with revenue “to make sure the schools open in a safe way.”

Clarke predicted a resolution “relatively soon.”

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