City Council and the Philadelphia School District are jousting over options to fund public schools if a cigarette tax proposal fails to win approval in Harrisburg.
Former Councilman, now School Reform Commission chair Bill Green believes there are options if lawmakers in Harrisburg reject the city cigarette tax idea.
“A one percent increase in every city,” suggested Green. “Tax simply one percent in everything across the board would raise 34 million dollars, two percent would raise 76 million dollars. There’s certainly that option.”
Green is not suggesting raising tax rates by a percentage point, he would raise rates enough to bring in an extra one percent. The idea did not go over well with council.
Green says the schools need a promised $120 million from a sales tax surcharge plus $75 million from a cigarette tax to prevent massive cuts in employees and services come September.
Council President Darrell Clarke pointedly told Green if some of that falls through, there is no other money available for the schools. Green responded by questioning other council priorities, such as restoring fire department cutbacks.
“I’m worried about that statement,” Green said. “I’m not worried about how we would get the money, whether it’s cuts, what’s more important, eliminating brownouts or having 43 kids in a class.”
Philadelphia’s City Charter demands a budget by the end of May, but over the past few years, council has often finalized a spending plan in June. The school district usually finds out what it will get from the state legislature in June as well.