By Mike Dunn
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Just days before School Superintendent William Hite needs a city commitment of $50-million to open the public schools, the mayor and city council president remain very much at odds over how to come up with the cash.
Mayor Michael Nutter says he and Council President Darrell Clarke have yet to reach agreement over how to fund Superintendent Hite’s $50-million request.
“I’m not in a position as we stand here to say that we’ve reached agreement,” Nutter said. “But our conversations are ongoing and they will continue.”
Council President Clarke continues pushing his plan to have the school district give the city some shuttered properties, which the city would then re-sell to make back the $50 million.
“I’ve shopped it around. Everybody likes the plan. It makes a lot of sense,” Clarke said. “I think we’re pretty comfortable with the proposal that we’ve submitted.”
But aides to the mayor says Clarke’s plan is not feasible because the District is already counting on revenue from those property sales, and because other properties it could give the city would not sell very easily.
“We don’t see that collection or properties out there that could move quickly enough to satisfy that kind of money,” Commerce Director Alan Greenberger says some of the district’s vacant properties would need costly remediation in order to sell.
“Those are going to take more time. It’s not that they’re impossible (to sell). They’re just going to take more time. They have to be carried (by the city) for some period of time. We don’t know what that period of time is yet.”
Nutter instead wants council approval of the Governor’s plan, in which the city would borrow $50-million against a permanent extension of the penny-on-the-dollar sales tax hike. Clarke is resistant; he wants half of those revenues earmarked for the struggling city worker pension fund:
“Understanding the importance of schools, I have to make sure the city (itself) is fiscally sound.”
But the Mayor’s Finance Director, Rob Dubow, counters that even under Corbett’s plan, the city pension would eventually benefit from the sales tax revenues.
“Either option provides a substantial amount of funding for the pension fund. The option that was approved by the state gets you up to 80% funding by 2030. That’s a significant improvement.”
State lawmakers from Philadelphia meantime are demanding that the Governor release $45-million dollars, but Corbett says that release is contingent on having the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers agree to reforms.
Superintendent Hite says without a promise from Clarke and Nutter that he’ll get the $50-million by Friday, he won’t be able to open schools on time.