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City Hall Battle Resumes Over Philadelphia Schools Funding Shortfall

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Mike Dunn Mike Dunn
Mike Dunn is City Hall bureau chief for KYW Newsradio 1060. He covers...
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By Mike Dunn and Mike DeNardo and Ileana Diaz

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — One day before Philadelphia City Council opens its fall session, Mayor Nutter is repeating his call for the lawmakers to earmark sales tax money to raise an extra $50 million for the school district.

City Council holds its first formal meeting tomorrow morning, with the issue of that $50 million very much on the front burner.

Council president Darrell Clarke maintains that giving the school district $50 million and then selling off the district’s vacant buildings is the best way to raise the money.

Today, Clarke stood in front of large photos of district properties — including eight that he said could sell for $100 million alone.

“These properties here have already had expressions of interest from significant developers-slash-owners of existing real estate,” Clarke said. ” So this is real.”

Clarke said the real estate plan would be introduced at tomorrow’s opening of council’s fall session.  And he could not say whether any councilmembers would be introducing the mayor’s plan to extend the city sales tax to benefit the schools.

Councilmembers have been resistant to Governor Corbett’s plan to earmark all of a sales tax extension for city schools.  They want half the money to go to the pension fund of city employees.

Mayor Nutter, though, has sent legislation to Council which embodies the governor’s plan, and today he again urged its approval.

“Hopefully the decisionmaking will be done in the context of what’s in the best interest of schoolchildren and the financial stability of the school district,” the mayor said.

Nutter says any divergence from the governor’s plan -– such as Council’s alternative to split the sales tax money — would need state legislative approval, which could prove problematic.

“Passing anything that is different from what the General Assembly has authorized and the governor signed will not go into effect, and the school district will not have access to the $120 million that is sitting now in the state tax code,” Nutter warned.

Nevertheless, the mayor does not appear to have even a single councilmember supporting the governor’s plan, and it is unclear if any lawmaker is even willing to introduce the legislation.  Without that introduction the plan would go nowhere.

Today, though, Nutter refused to speculate.

“I’m not going to make any predictions about what may or may not happen, whether it’s tomorrow or next week, on a particular piece of legislation,” he said.  “Why don’t we just wait until we get get there?”

Meantime, Nutter announced the creation of the Philadelphia Education Supplies Fund, which will be administered by the United Way.  He says teachers get only $100 per school year for supplies, money that is often exhausted by the first week. More information at unitedforimpact.org/teachersupplies.

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