2013 IN REVIEW: Phila. School Funding at a Crossroads
By Mike Dunn
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The year featured a lengthy tug-of-war between Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter and City Council over how to come up with an extra $50 million for the already threadbare School District of Philadelphia.
Part of Gov. Tom Corbett’s school district bailout plan involved funneling city sales tax money to the school district to the tune of $50 million, but City Council needed to sign off.
It was not Mayor Nutter’s preferred plan — he wanted to create a brand new tax on cigarettes — but he urged City Council to approve the governor’s plan as the best available option.
“I will not risk a catastrophe,” the mayor said at the time. “We’re at crunch time, we’re at that moment. It’s time to take action.”
But Council president Darrell Clarke had a different idea: to have the city forward the cash to the district in return for the right to sell unused school district properties (see related stories).
“These properties here have already had expressions of interest from significant developers-slash-owners of existing real estate, so this is real,” Clarke said.
Aides to the mayor said Clarke’s plan was unfeasible, and the battle dragged on for months.
But Nutter could not find a single councilmember even willing to introduce the sales tax plan (see related story), and by late October, with no other options, Nutter signed on to a revised version of Clarke’s plan.
“We both agreed that we need to get these properties out in the marketplace as quickly as possible,” Nutter said.
The process of selling the school buildings will ramp up in 2014.