Philly Council moves on plan to buy, resell vacant schools to raise $50 million


A Philadelphia City Council committee has approved its plan for generating $50 million for the city’s public schools.

The Council’s plan clashes with a proposal favored by Mayor Michael Nutter’s administration.


Philadelphia Finance Director Rob Dubow testified Thursday that it’s important for council to pass Mayor Nutter’s plan to extend a sales tax surcharge that was going to expire.

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Council, instead, prefers to buy vacant properties from the school district and then sell them for development.

It’s not that simple, said Dubow.

“If the city purchases those properties and retains the first $50 million in sale proceeds, the district would lose out on the $28 million it was counting on in its five-year plan,” he said. “Unless the properties generate $78 million — $50 million to make the city whole for its purchase and $28 million in the district’s five-year plan.”

Councilman Brian O’Neill voiced frustration that Nutter is pushing the state’s plan of extending the sales tax surcharge. Council members has been counting on that money to shore up Philadelphia’s flagging pensions funds.

“The city doing the state’s share,” he said. “It’s just the antithesis of any intergovernmental relations that could possibly exist in this country, between federal and state and state and local.”

Council members still hope to create a city tobacco tax to help fund the schools. Gov. Tom Corbett and the Legislature have rejected that idea for now.

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