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Nutter says schools need the extra money in his budget plan

In the wake of news that the school district's financial woes have grown worse, Mayor Nutter today said his property tax plan is needed to provide additional revenue to the schools.

"Last year, we as a city provided additional funding," Nutter said. "Support for our schools is no less important this year."

The school district today announced a $218 million deficit in the coming fiscal year, which would grow if Nutter's property tax plan doesn't get City Council approval. Nutter's budget plan proposes shifting the city to a property tax system that relies on market values – known as the "Actual Value Initiative." In the process, he would collect $90 million in additional revenue for the schools.

Critics have called Nutter's revenue goal a "back door" tax hike, while Nutter says he's just capturing the increase in city property values. Some Council members would like to delay implementing AVI for a year, in part because the city is not expected to complete property evaluations until after their June 30 budget deadline. But Nutter today said it was time for the city to reform the broken property tax system.

"We need to fix the property assessment system and we need to support high quality public education," Nutter said. "The issues will not go away. The district has a $1.1 billion dollar five year plan deficit. You cannot escape that, you can't kick that can down the road and if we don't take significant action, the system will collapse."

Councilman Bill Green said Council should view AVI and the effort to seek more funding for schools as two separate issues.

"While I certainly share the mayor's enthusiasm for better schools, AVI has nothing do with schools revenue," Green said. "The separation of the issues will allow there to be a full and open debate on the merits of the issues."