Council Skeptical of School Funding Plan

As budget talks begin, a plan to generate $103 million gets little traction.

Photo by Jeff Fusco

Photo by Jeff Fusco

The City Council will begin two months of budget hearings today — with the biggest question being whether it will approve Mayor Nutter’s request to raise $103 million in new city funding for public schools.

The increase would be funded by a 9.3-percent hike on property taxes — and so far, KYW reports, there doesn’t seem to be much enthusiasm.

Councilman Bill Greenlee doubts the Mayor’s plan will fly.

“A lot of us — and I’m one — feel that this almost 10-percent real estate tax increase is probably not the best way to go at this point,” said Greenlee. “Obviously there will be a lot of questions, and we got a lot of decisions to make.”

So over the ensuing weeks and months, expect City Council members to pitch their own alternative methods of raising that cash, including potential cuts to city services.

“I think there’s a combination of things that we could do that would help us generate recurring revenue, without looking at the property (tax) increase as the only option,” says Councilwoman Maria Quinones Sanchez. “I think Council, as it has done in the last five years, we’re going to discuss all those options, discuss them with the Administration, and end up somewhere.”

Council President Darrell Clarke wants to see the state come through with funding. NewsWorks reports he’s not alone:

A number of City Council members including Councilman Ed Neilson see the Nutter Administration request for a more than 9 percent property tax hike “dead on arrival” in council.

“Because I think it’s unfair that we even entertain a tax increase prior to the state implementing their budget,” he said.

Mayor Nutter broke with tradition by including a specific increase for the schools as part of his proposed budget. Such additional dollars are usually plugged into the city budget later in the process, often after it becomes clear roughly how much money likely will come from Harrisburg.

Council meets at 10 a.m. today at City Hall.