Philly Council: We’ve done our part for city schools, now teachers union and Pa. need to help

Philadelphia City Council is poised to pass its funding solution for Philadelphia’s public schools this week. But the formula will depend on cooperation from Pennsylvania legislators.

The Council plans to pass a budget that includes a tax of $2-per-pack of cigarettes, proposed by Mayor Michael Nutter, combined with enhanced revenue collection of about $28 million in back taxes.

Council President Darrell Clarke says that will add up to $74.4 million for the schools.

“It was determined, based on the $2-per-pack cigarette tax, that it would raise upwards of $46 million,” Clarke said Tuesday. “Additionally, based on our process of aggressive collections and internal measures in the city of Philadelphia. we were able to raise another $28 million.”

No drink tax

Taken off the table was a five-percent increase in the liquor-by-the-drink tax. And, even though the cigarette tax needs state approval, Clarke said the Council has exceeded the original $60 million request from the school district.

City officials have done all they can do to help the schools, he said.

“We pretty much shot our load on those two measures,” he said. “I sent a letter as requested by the General Assembly — all our lobbying efforts locally have been for the enabling legislation to pass.

“The Chamber of Commerce has been on board with the cigarette tax, very aggressively, so all of our apples have been pretty much put in that one cart.”

Different than other years?

Philadelphia School Superintendent William Hite has said that on his trips to Harrisburg to asking state legislators for funding, lawmakers tell him it’s the same problem the district comes to them with every year.

This year, Hite says, it’s different.

“The distinction is that we have made some very hard decisions based on the revenue we know we have and, although there are other districts that are impacted across the state. none of them have taken the actions we have over the past 18 months,” he said.

The superintendent says any additional funding will be used to help the schools and reinstate those who have been given layoff notices.

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