By Mike Dunn and Ileana Diaz
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter has defused, for the moment, the crisis over whether Philadelphia Schools will open on time (see related stories).
The mayor today promised the school district the emergency $50 million requested by schools superintendent William Hite (see related story), even though Nutter has not yet cut a deal with City Council over how it will be funded.
One day before Hite’s deadline to get city assurance of the $50 million it needs to begin the school year on time, Mayor Nutter promised the district that money will come, one way or another.
“I will not risk a catastrophe — we will avoid this disaster,” the mayor said this morning. “I am committing to our students, our parents, our citizens today that schools are going to open on time and safely on September 9th.”
Nutter said if City Council does not go along with Gov. Corbett’s plan to borrow the money against future sales tax revenues (see related story), he will simply borrow the money against the general fund — a move that could result in cuts to city services down the road.
But even that sort of borrowing will require City Council approval.
Council president Darrell Clarke favors a different approach: having the school district give the city some unused properties for re-sale, with those revenues paying for the bond deal (see related story).
A short time after Nutter’s announcement, Clarke held a press conference (below) to say that he was opposed to any sort of borrowing, adding that his plan to sell properties has the support of all councilmembers.
“The fifty (million) that we’re talking about does not include a borrowing, which to a significant degree concerns us,” Clarke said. “There’s $200 million in real estate available — for sale — and you go out and borrow $50 million? From a fiscal perspective, it doesn’t make a lot of sense.”
When asked if it was presumptuous of Mayor Nutter to give his assurance to Hite before there was agreement on funding the $50 million, Clarke said simply, “I’m not going to tell you what I really think.”
So, the haggling between City Council and the mayor’s office over how to fund the school district’s shortfall continues. But regardless of the funding mechanism, school district families should rest easy, according to Nutter:
“It’s clear to me that even a majority of members of Philadelphia City Council — even with many different ideas being discussed — want the same one thing: that schools open on time and safely.”