$50 million deal for Philly schools called ‘good start,’ involves selling of vacant schools

    A deal has been struck between the mayor and city council to provide $50 million to Philadelphia schools. 

    The compromise has Mayor Michael Nutter signing council’s bill making $50 million available to the school district. At the same time, the district will aggressively market vacant school properties with help from the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation to make sure that money won’t have to be used.

    Nutter says all available properties will be marketed on the Internet beginning next week.

    “I think if we have a strong response — all these expressions of interest, all the various entities have stepped up. I think the real issue is up on the site. Get your expressions of interest in … check it all out, put your money on the table. Let’s rock and roll,” said an exuberant Nutter.

    Council President Darrell Clarke says he feels confident the properties will sell quickly.

    “We actually have multiple offers for the entire school district portfolio, so that puts us in a very enviable position in the real estate world. So I am pretty excited about the possibilities,” he said.

    Governor Corbett’s administration had suggested the city come up with $50 million by instead extending a 1 percent sales tax and borrowing against that. Nutter initially backed that idea.

    Jay Pagni, Corbett’s press secretary, did not express disappointment that Nutter and Council agreed to find the money elsewhere. He called their compromise a “good start.”

    “What we would hope and understand needs to continue to occur is looking for a recurring revenue source for the Philadelphia School District,” he said.

    To that end, Corbett wants Council to provide $120 million to the schools in future years by extending the sales tax.

    Clarke, instead, wants to evenly split the sales tax proceeds between the schools and the city’s ailing pension fund. To make up the difference, he is pushing for lawmakers in Harrisburg to OK a local cigarette tax and pony up more state funding.

    Holly Otterbein contribued to this report.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal