Setting tax hike hearing after primary isn’t to help Philly Council incumbents, Clarke says

 Council President Darrell Clarke (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

Council President Darrell Clarke (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

Philadelphia City Council is in no hurry to take up Mayor Michael Nutter’s proposed 9 percent property tax hike to create a permanent source of funding for the city’s schools.

In fact, city lawmakers have delayed a hearing on the matter until after the May 19 primary election. 

Questions about the hearing schedule began percolating after former councilman and current School Reform Commission member Bill Green offered some off-the-cuff advice. 

Concerning the tax increase plan, which is unpopular among City Council members, and the fact that this is an election year, Green said, “My suggestion to my colleagues would be to not vote until after May 19, and then give us the funding that the mayor has requested.”

Though City Council will hold its first budget hearing in the end of March, President Darrell Clarke said there is nothing nefarious about waiting to hold the tax hike hearing until May 26.

“I say this notion that somehow the timing relates to an election is essentially an attempt for someone to politicize a process that happens on an annual basis,” Clarke said Thursday.

Councilman Curtis Jones had a message for candidates running for Council.

“It’s easy to backseat drive when you have no clue about what it takes to make a budget,” he said.

Meanwhile, schools Superintendent William Hite said the extra $100 million from the city is essential, no matter how it is generated.

“I’m a taxpayer here in Philadelphia now,” he said. “And as a taxpayer, I think there is no other investment that is equally important or more important than this issue.  Because, if we are serious about providing a high-quality education for our children, then we have to think about how we are going to pay for that.”

Council members deny any delaying tactic by scheduling the hearing at the end of May. They believe that the state budget allocation is key to the school district, and they hope a later hearing will give them more insight into just how much state money will be poured into the financially struggling district.

Neighborhood budget hearings will be held before the May 19 primary election, and officials say residents will have a chance to talk about the schools at those meetings.

 

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