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Councilman: Ask mega-nonprofits for school money

Goode believes large nonprofits, not taxpayers, should do more to address school-funding crisis.

WHEN MAYOR Nutter proposed hiking property taxes 9.3 percent to give $105 million to the struggling school district two weeks ago, not one member of City Council gave a thumbs up.

Instead, many said they'd come up with other ways to help the schools.

Yesterday, at-large Councilman W. Wilson Goode Jr. introduced a resolution which he said would generate millions, though he stopped short of estimating just how many millions.

The resolution calls for the Nutter administration to ask large nonprofit institutions - think universities and hospitals - to voluntarily contribute money for the schools.

The PILOTs program - payments in lieu of taxes - was first used by former Mayor Ed Rendell in 1995 and raised more than $9 million, Goode said.

"We recognize that about 10 percent of the city's properties are tax-exempt and many of those properties are owned by mega-nonprofits," Goode said. "We believe now if that program was pursued again it would raise tens of millions of dollars."

Officials from the University of Pennsylvania and Temple University talked about their ongoing support of schools, but did not embrace the idea of making cash payments.

"We're very respectful of Councilman Goode's views on this issue, but we believe we can more effectively benefit the children of this city with our programs and personnel directly in the classroom," said Jeffrey Cooper, Penn's vice president of government and community affairs.

Cooper noted that every seventh-grade class - when studying ancient Greece and Rome - has an invitation to visit the university's library for a day, about $1 million annually is contributed to the Penn Alexander School, which Penn and the school district created in partnership, and university personnel provide assistance at Henry Lea Elementary School to augment the curriculum.

"Temple offers millions of dollars in scholarships to local residents, delivers important health-care services at locations throughout the region and engages in dozens of collaborations with the School District of Philadelphia," said Ray Betzner, associate vice president for strategic marketing and communications.

"As Philadelphia's public university, we take great pride in being a good neighbor and a vital part of our city," he added.

Mayor Nutter's press office did not respond to a Daily News request for comment. Members of the public will be able to comment on the PILOTs proposal before Council votes on it, Goode said.

In other Council news, at-large Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown introduced a bill to make permanent the Mayor's Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Affairs.

Created by Mayor Nutter, the office could be discontinued by a future mayor without a change in law.

If the bill is passed by Council, signed by the mayor and approved by voters in the November general election, the city's Home Rule Charter will be changed to make the office permanent.