The Mayor's Budget Address Lacked Original Ideas and Pressures Homeowners

Yesterday's budget address by Mayor Michael Nutter was a far cry from what occurred two years ago.  In 2013 the anger of DC 33 and 47 union members transformed Council chambers into a raucous affair.  The members had not received a raise or the hint of a raise for the six years that the Mayor had been in office.  He was not able to complete his address and had to present in a much smaller room.  Yesterday was a love in compared to two years ago.  The Mayor thanked Council members for their service.  He thanked Council President Clarke for stalling any legislation he proposed over the last few years.  I don't think that he worded it like that but you can infer from any recent bills what he really meant.

In spite of any other line item mentioned in yesterday's budget address, the crux of the matter is always the school district.  The temporary increase in the sales tax in Philadelphia was made permanent due to the continual problems that the PSD has in balancing the budget.  In June of 2014, City Council listed 20 schools for immediate sale.  Council advance money to the School District based on the anticipated sale of the buildings.  Based on public information, only the University City building and William Penn High School buildings have been sold.  George W. Child's, in Point Breeze, sits unsold and underutilized.  Germantown High School and Bok Vocational High are still waiting for a buyer.  The Smith School in Point Breeze also is the subject of community protests about its reuse.  Meanwhile, the City of Philadelphia is on the hook until the remaining vacant buildings sell.

Image result for SRC in Philadelphia

I am curious about the impact of the cigarette tax that was imposed on those citizens in Philadelphia that smoke.  The legislation had been held up in Harrisburg by legislators who wanted some concessions from our local government about how schools would be operated and new charter schools.  The recent replacement of School Reform Commission Chairman Bill Green by Governor Tom Wolf was based on the SRC's approval of 5 charter school applications.  Governor Wolf feels that charter schools drain an already anemic PSD budget.  The fact that over 40,000 Philadelphia students are on a waiting list to get into charter schools makes we want to look into this issue more closely.  Former Chairman Green said the cigarette tax legislation required the approval of charter schools.  I called the Clerk's Office of the City of Philadelphia but could not find this referenced in the legislation.  I am not done researching this issue.

Homeowners in Philadelphia are under attack due to the problems facing the school district.  The Actual Value Initiative has already caused increases to many of us that own property.  Now the Mayor wants to impose a 9.4% increase on homeowners due to the sinkhole that has become the School District.  It amazes me that no Director, including Dr. Hite, will come here for less than $300,000.00 a year.  The only thing that citizens hear is that we must do more for our students and change the culture.  Are there any other solutions for this problem?  Due to the fact that this is an election year for all Council members, I wonder how much traction this proposed tax increase will receive in Council chambers.  The PGW sale did not go through based on Council not even introducing it.  This sale was supposed to help our underfunded pension system.  It died a painful, slow death due to inaction.

Philadelphia won the right to host the Democratic National Convention in 2016.  We will also host a visit from the Pope either this year or next.  We have major events like Made in America and the Broad Street Run.  Why can't we get it right when it comes to a sustainable budget for the Philadelphia School District?  Also, when will the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers agree to a contract that involves paying a portion of their health benefits?  The lack of a contract might be addressed now that a former educator, Marjorie Neff, as the new Chairperson of the SRC.  The election season will heat up soon.  Let's see what potential legislators have to say about what to do to save the School District.  Until then, most homeowners have no inclination to pay increased taxes for a never ending budget problem.

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