Philadelphia City Council launched its school-funding counterplan to Mayor Nutter's proposed property-tax increase Thursday, calling for raising taxes on parking lots and businesses as well as a much milder boost in property taxes than Nutter wants.

The three bills introduced Thursday would generate far less than what the School District says it needs. They would bring in an estimated $70 million - more than two-thirds of the $103 million Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. is seeking. The district also hopes for $206 million from the state.

Council President Darrell L. Clarke said his focus was on bridging the district's $85 million deficit, not the full asking price.

"It's our belief that, at a minimum, the deficit should be dealt with," he said, "and we're prepared to put more than half of the money on the table to deal with the deficit."

The move was greeted with disappointment by a business lobby, the Nutter administration, and school officials.

District spokesman Fernando Gallard said $85 million merely would bring schools back "to the insufficient level of resources that we have now. . . . We can't even comprehend what $70 million would look like."

If the bills are enacted, real estate taxes would increase by 4.5 percent - less than half the 9.34 percent Nutter wants - to net an estimated $50 million for the schools. The Use and Occupancy tax, which applies to all businesses in the city, would be increased from 1.13 percent to 1.21 percent to provide up to $10 million.

And a bill to raise taxes on off-street parking, introduced by Councilman William K. Greenlee, would bring in a projected $10 million by raising the tax on parking garages and lots to 22.5 percent from 20 percent.

"It's one of the possibilities of maybe getting the School District some more money and, as I say, sharing the pain a little bit, because obviously I don't think there's the appetite in here for the mayor's proposal," Greenlee said. "We're looking for other possible options, but we have to get it in today to even consider it as a possible option."

Council needs to pass a budget before its three-month summer break. Its last scheduled meeting is June 18.

Nutter spokesman Mark McDonald said the best solution "calls for stable, recurring revenue that does not impact the city's general fund, that does not require prior state approval, and that meets the School District's funding request." He reiterated the administration's stance that its proposed property-tax increase meets those criteria.

Joe Grace, policy director at the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, took issue with the proposal to increase the U&O tax on businesses, noting that it had been recently raised.

"It went up 18 percent just three cycles ago," Grace said. "It does send a signal to businesses that can move that 'Here we go, raising the tax again.' "

Clarke, who has sparred with school officials about their funding requests in recent weeks, said he had concerns that the district would use the money to privatize nursing and other health-care staff, a move he does not support.

The district last month sent out a request for proposals asking for companies to suggest ideas for reinventing school-based health care.

"Let's move ahead and work in a collaborative measure, not issue RFPs without working with stakeholders," Clarke said. "We're prepared as always to put additional money in schools, but it has to be a part of a process."

Gallard said that no decisions had been made but that everyone, including Council, has been clear of the need for more nurses in the city schools.

"The bottom line here is, we need to increase the health-care services for our students," he said. "This is something we should all be celebrating, and it's confusing to hear other folks saying, 'Do it, but don't do it this way.' "

Students, teachers, and principals attended the Council meeting, many wearing "$105 million" stickers and holding signs.

Public comment - which officially is limited to the bills up for a final vote - became a creative display of how to discuss school funding.

Lisa Kaplan, principal of Andrew Jackson School in South Philadelphia, signed up to comment on a resolution to require teaching of cursive writing, a much-talked-about issue in Council. She quickly pivoted to her main message.

"You must fund these mandates and fund them fully," she said. "Education is the only thing someone cannot take away from you. It's the great equalizer. . . . I want to thank Council for keeping in mind when we put mandates, when we have great ideas, we need to come up with the capital to make sure our students are doing better than just the status quo."




What Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. wants the city to give to the School District.


What City Council would raise by increasing property taxes by 4.5%, less than half what Mayor Nutter proposed.


What Council would raise by raising the parking tax.


What Council would raise by increasing the Use and Occupancy tax on businesses.


The difference between Hite's request and Council's proposals.EndText

Inquirer staff writer Kristen A. Graham contributed to this article.