A top Nutter administration official Thursday made his best pitch to City Council: The mayor's proposed property-tax increase is the clearest way to get city schools the $105 million they desperately need.
"Without additional funding, the schools will have another bleak year," Finance Director Rob Dubow said at a Council hearing.
Mayor Nutter wants a 9.3 percent jump in the city's property-tax rate to generate $105 million for the beleaguered Philadelphia School District, but skeptical Council members have said that's going to be a tough sell.
"I'm really not in favor of increasing the property tax," Councilman David Oh said.
Dubow outlined why the administration felt the tax was necessary: The district "has made unavoidable cuts that have seen the services it provides deteriorate to a level that no one thinks is acceptable."
That has happened despite a $360 million increase in city-provided revenues for the schools since 2009.
Gov. Wolf, Dubow noted, has proposed a $159 million hike in funding for Philadelphia schools, plus about $25 million in cyber charter reimbursements, and some tax relief that would offset a city hike. But Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. needs more from the city to begin to make academic investments, he has said.
Dubow said the city fix had to be recurring, and should not require state action.
"We believe that the best option is an increase in the property tax," he said.
Acknowledging that some taxpayers will feel the pinch acutely, Dubow called the rate hike a necessary fix for a system that has suffered disproportionately in recent years.
The owner of a home valued at $113,000, the median price, would pay $104 more per year.
Oh and Council President Darrell L. Clarke asked Dubow why Nutter preferred the property-tax increase, rather than a mix of less painful solutions such as a hike in the city's use and occupancy tax.
"There are other ways to create annualized revenue," Clarke said.
"There's nothing else that would generate that much" revenue as a tax increase, Dubow responded.
The few Council members in attendance seemed unconvinced.
Oh pointed out that the tax hike was coming in the final year of Nutter's administration.
"I want to help the schools, but not at the expense of hurting people in the neighborhoods," Oh said. "Is that the best you've got after eight years?"
Hite and other School District officials are scheduled to appear before Council next week.