Nutter puts soda tax back on the table to bail out Philadelphia schools

Philadelphia public schools are seeking up to $110 million from the city to help plug a huge deficit. To raise the money, Mayor Michael Nutter is bringing back a proposal that City Council squashed a year ago.

Mayor Nutter says the city can’t give the school district the money it wants without finding new revenues. He spent this morning speaking with community and councilmembers discussing the options.

“Anywhere from the possibility of increasing the school district portion of the real estate tax, a sugar sweetened beverage tax, increased parking rates at meters, or any other options that we could come up with,” said Nutter.

The money would be used to continue paying to transport kids to school, either by bus or SEPTA, and avoid scaling back kindergarten to half days.

Members of City Council huddled behind closed doors. Councilman Bill Greenlee says he’s not sure the soda tax withstand a court challenge.

“To base something on something that questionable concerns me and I’ve had concerns about raising real estate taxes already but I’m willing to listen,” said Greenlee.

Councilman Bill Green says the school district and School Reform Commission shouldn’t be coming to the city for money.

“Our partners at the SRC are not treating us like adults they are fear mongering and until they stop engaging of that type of behavior I see no reason to be supportive,” said Green.

Councilwoman Marian Tasco says she wants to help the schools, but isn’t sure of how to do it.

“I think we have to keep talking,” said Tasco. “It’s quite a challenge looking at the alternatives that he have to choose from and trying to figure out how we fund the school district.

Councilwoman Tasco says it’s hard to find nine votes to approve any tax or fee increase after voting to hike property taxes 10 percent last year. Mayor Nutter says the city must come through.

“We’re either going to educate our children or unfortunately some of them we will be incarcerating that really is the hard cold choice here. I choose to stand with the children of this city and their parents, I want education in Philadelphia,” said Nutter.

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