AFTER CITY Council unanimously approved a plan to buy $50 million worth of shuttered school district buildings last week, Council President Darrell Clarke told reporters that there have been 11 "expressions of interest" from potential buyers.
So who are they? And what are their plans for the buildings?
Council won't say - not even to Mayor Nutter.
Nutter, who must decide whether to sign, veto or ignore the Council bill next week, said his administration has requested information about the developers "numerous times."
"I don't have any of the letters or material that Council has talked about with regard to expressions of interest," Nutter said yesterday. "It would help further the process for both us and the school district if there are legitimate expressions of interest. Whoever they are and whatever they might say would be helpful."
Clarke's office did not respond to a request for comment.
The level of interest in the properties is key because Nutter has questioned whether reselling the portfolio will actually retrieve $50 million for the city.
A recent study by Pew Charitable Trusts showed that selling empty school buildings has been difficult for other cities and that the properties often go for much less than expected.
The need for the $50 million arose this summer when Superintendent William Hite Jr. said that schools may not have been able to open without the additional money. Nutter and Clarke could not agree on how to produce the money, but pledged to find it by midyear, allowing the district to open schools on time.
Nutter's plan involves Council approving a permanent extension of the city's temporary sales-tax increase (now 8 percent) that was crafted by Gov. Corbett in the state's June budget deal. That would allow the city to borrow $50 million for the district immediately and provide $120 million per year starting in 2015.
Clarke calls that plan, which no Council member has even introduced on the mayor's behalf, a "bad deal" because it was crafted without the input of city leaders and provides what he considers to be an insufficient amount of aid to the city's pension fund. It also comes with strings attached: The state secretary of education must annually approve the release of the money, even though they are city-generated tax dollars.