By Mark Abrams and Pat Ciarrocchi
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) –– Mayor Michael Nutter drops his opposition to a City-Council passed plan to sell vacant school buildings to raise much needed cash for the Philadelphia School District.
The Mayor gathered with Council President Darrell Clarke and several members of City Council late Wednesday afternoon to announce he had reached what he labeled a compromise on the school fund plan.
Essentially, the city will put up $50 million and work with the school district to help it sell vacant properties.
“This is a process that has evolved, the landscape has changed to some extent, we’ve come together with a better understanding of what each is trying to accomplish and now working in partnership to make this go forward,” Nutter said.
“The level of interest has actually surprised me, so much so, that not only do we have individuals who are interested in, expressed interest in a single property, but we actually have multiple offers for the entire school district portfolios,” Clarke said.
In fact, Clarke disclosed that two separate developers are telling him they’d like to take all of them.
Nutter says the properties are being posted on the district’s website and he’s urging developers to look at them, go open the doors and check the buildings out, and get their plans together and – in the mayor’s words – put your money on the table.
The Mayor also says the city will advance a $60 million payment to the school district now so it can cover expenses through the end of the calendar year. It’s money, he says, that it would have released to the district in May or June.
Nutter and Clarke also agreed the city can’t go it alone and vowed to work together to press Harrisburg for other revenue sources to support the schools.
Philadelphia Federation of Teachers President Jerry Jordan released the following statement:
“Today the mayor and city council announced an aggressive plan to provide our schoolchildren with additional resources, programs and services this school year. As with the $45 million released by Gov. Corbett, these funds should be used to immediately restore the thousands of school employees laid off in June.
We applaud our city’s elected leaders for working together to find solutions for the current crisis created by Governor Corbett’s cuts to education funding. These cuts have forced our school district to eliminate school nurses, counselors, secretaries, AP classes, art, music and other essential elements of a quality education. We simply cannot continue to fund our schools in this fashion.
While today’s announcement highlights our city leaders’ commitment to our schoolchildren, it also underscores the urgent need for a sustainable funding formula for public education in Pennsylvania.”