PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney made a heartfelt plea for raising real estate taxes to pay for schools on Thursday, but his budget proposal also scaled back another major educational initiative.
The five year spending plan decreases the number of pre-K seats.
The mayor’s lofty goal of “universal” pre-K helped sell the controversial sweetened beverage tax but, in its first year, the tax raised $13 million dollars less than anticipated.
Budget director Anna Adams says it was actually pretty good for the first year of a tax.
“It’s always difficult to get this exactly right. We’re pretty proud of the fact that we came within fifteen percent,” she said.
But it does mean the city will have less to spend on the programs the tax supports, and that means a thousand fewer pre-K seats over five years, 5500 instead of 6500.
It also means just 20 community schools instead of 25 and a reduction in how much the city can borrow for the rebuild of city facilities.
All of the programs have been delayed by a soda industry lawsuit against the tax but in his address, the mayor argued that it’s been a success.
“That tax brought in nearly $79 million. To date more than 2,700 three and four-year-olds have benefited from free, quality early education through our phl pre-K program,” Kenney said.