Philadelphia City Council unanimously gave Mayor Nutter the authority Thursday to transfer $50 million to the School District in exchange for a portfolio of shuttered school buildings.
The question is: What will the mayor do now?
He and his cabinet have raised repeated objections to Council's plan to swap money for empty schools.
Ultimately, the mayor may not have much choice. Late this summer, he pledged $50 million of city money so the district would have the funding to start the school year on time.
The district needs to have the cash in the bank by December or January.
Nutter has been supporting a state funding package that calls for the city to borrow the $50 million against future collections of Philadelphia's extra 1 percent sales tax.
But a bill key to that plan has not been introduced, because no one in Council will sponsor it.
Through a spokesman, Nutter said Thursday that he was committed to working with Council to find the $50 million.
On Wednesday, while answering questions about Gov. Corbett's decision to release a $45 million piece of the school-funding package, Nutter was asked whether he would sign off on Council's plan.
"I never predict what I'm going to do with a piece of legislation before it gets to my desk," he said.
He did not restate his opposition to the building swap, nor did he repeat his reasons for wanting to borrow the money.
"The larger issue here is that the discussion continues between myself and the Council president . . . about how we fulfill the $50 million pledge," he said. "We'll keep working on it."
Under the bill approved Thursday, the $50 million would not be available until the city and the district entered into an agreement with the Philadelphia Authority for Industrial Development (PAID), which would be expected to market and sell the old schools, including 24 closed this year.
The plan assumes the sale of the schools will pay back the $50 million fairly quickly.
The bill would allow the mayor to set the parameters of the agreement with PAID. This summer, after months of work, the administration and the district agreed on a strategy for selling buildings - in some cases with the help of PAID.
Administration officials have been cautious, though, saying large, antiquated buildings wouldn't move quickly. In the meantime, the city will be responsible for the upkeep.
Council President Darrell L. Clarke believes otherwise. Council members have received nine different inquiries for seven school properties, and Clarke said other buildings could be converted into new uses, such as senior housing, with government help.
"Given what we've seen in the past as it relates to repurposed schools," he said Thursday, "I believe every one of those properties will be in a position to be repurposed."
Asked what would happen when Council's building swap hit the mayor's desk, Clarke said an agreement would have to be hashed out on the process for selling the schools. He would not say where talks stood on persuading the mayor to agree to the plan.
"Hopefully," he said, "we'll pivot to the mayor's office for a discussion about a process . . . to get PAID engaged so they can quickly move to a disposition of these properties.