After last year’s $276 million cut in state funding to the Philadelphia School District, two state representatives have introduced a bill in Harrisburg which, if passed, would pump city gaming revenues into the district as a solution to ongoing financial woes.
State Reps. Rosita Youngblood and Mike O’Brien jointly said on Tuesday that the district needs an infusion of $90 million in order to open this fall.
Their plan would reprioritize the use of gaming funds and put them towards school operations. The bill, HB 2361, was sponsored by O’Brien, who represents an area stretching from Port Richmond to Pennsport, but is a team effort.
“Unfortunately, this may be the best — if not the only — way for the Philadelphia School District to avoid insolvency,” said Youngblood, who represents Germantown and other portions of Northwest Philadelphia. “We want to make clear that we are not raising taxes with this legislation. We are just redirecting funds from the city’s gaming revenue.”
Opposing the Mayor’s plan
Mayor Michael Nutter has already proposed to reassess Philadelphia properties in order to bring in money for the district.
O’Brien said the property tax hikes that would result from Nutter’s plan would be far greater than any wage tax relief received during the five-year period the legislation covers.
If the district reaches insolvency before five years elapse, then the gaming revenue would revert to back to wage tax relief, according to the plan.
Buying time to reform the PSD
The representatives said the temporary cash infusion of about $88 million would give the district time to consider changes suggested by the School Reform Commission, improve efficiency and regain solvency, without a major impact on education.
“We must never lose sight of what is really at stake here: Maintaining the chance at a quality education for tens of thousands of children,” said Youngblood. (PDF of full press-conference statement).