Pressure increased yesterday as City Council mulled options to help the cash-strapped school district.
While schools advocates rallied in West Philadelphia, Council members continued to discuss the request from Schools Superintendent Arlene Ackerman for up to $110 million in additional funds to stave off cuts.
Mayor Nutter has voiced strong support for the request by the district, which faces a $629 million funding shortfall in the fiscal year that starts July 1 due to state and federal cuts. But there was little enthusiasm in Council yesterday for a tax hike to provide the revenues.
"People are taxed to death," said Councilwoman Joan Krajewski. "They can't get into the charter schools and they can't afford the private schools and they're asking for another tax? No, I'm sorry."
The city is already set to provide $815 million in tax revenue and grant funding to the district for the pending fiscal year - about 30 percent of the district's $2.8 billion budget. To provide additional funds, the city could shift existing tax revenue to the district - which would force cuts to the city budget - or raise taxes.
Meanwhile, Nutter's administration yesterday took a stance on the course they don't want to take. Chief of Staff Clay Armbrister sent Council a letter arguing against a property-tax-millage shift that would provide the schools with more funding.
"A millage shift would open a painfully large gap in the City's budget, requiring spending reduction that would create noticeable service impacts throughout city government," wrote Armbrister.
But the letter did not clarify how the mayor wants to raise the money. Councilman Bill Green said he'd like to hear what Nutter wants to do.
"I'm not sure I understand what the administration position is," Green said. "Do they want to cut services or increase taxes?"
Council this week showed little appetite for increasing taxes, although many members said they want to help the schools. The Daily News asked 17 members: "Would you support a tax hike to provide more funding to the schools?"
Councilman Curtis Jones Jr. answered with a solid "yes." Eight members responded "no" and the rest either said "maybe" or wouldn't commit to an answer.