ABOVE PHOTO: City Hall (Photo: Shutterstock)
Last Thursday, City Council gave final approval to a $4.7 billion budget package that resolves a projected operating budget deficit for the School District of Philadelphia without increasing the property tax rate in Fiscal Year 2019.
City Council authorized measures that will yield approximately $616.5 million in additional revenue to Philadelphia public schools over the next five years. In addition, cost savings from criminal justice reform measures that have reduced the prison population will be partially redirected to fund the School District to further shrink the schools to prison pipeline and reinvested in anti-recidivism and crime prevention programs, with the rest returned to taxpayers.
“I am incredibly proud of the collaborative process that resulted in the amended budget package overwhelmingly passed by City Council today. The FY19 budget is a strong statement of our values as a City that is passionate about supporting public education, our most vulnerable citizens, and shared, equitable health and prosperity for our residents,” Council President Darrell L. Clarke (D – 5th Dist.) said.
“We are also deepening our imprint on the national stage, with criminal justice reform initiatives that have already resulted in the scheduled closure of a prison,” Clarke continued. “And we continue to fight climate change and the affordable housing crisis through innovative programs run by the Philadelphia Energy Authority. For those watching from the outside, Philadelphia continues to be one of the best places in the world to live, work, and visit.”
Council-amended adjustments to Mayor Jim Kenney’s proposed FY2019 budget include:
- $95 million in budget cuts to the Department of Prisons over five years, with savings being redirected to the School District of Philadelphia
- Additional department and program budget cuts, including $1 million reduction for snow removal and $1 million reduction to the Office of Information Technology, with the savings being redirected to the School District of Philadelphia
- $100 million over five years in direct City grants to the School District, as part of the overall $616.5 million package
- $1.5 million increase for addiction treatment sites (encampments)
- $300,000 increase for Commercial Corridors and Business Improvement Grants to strengthen neighborhoods and small businesses
- $386,711 increase for City Commissioners to support Election Day operations
- $150,000 increase for Women Against Abuse, which operates the City’s only domestic violence shelters
- $200,000 increase for street cleaning and trash programs
- $250,000 increase for violence prevention programs
Council President Clarke praised members for identifying alternative revenue sources in response to Mayor Kenney’s 4.1 percent property tax rate increase request, reiterating that City residents continue to increase funding for public schools while the Pennsylvania General Assembly continues to shortchange students here and across the Commonwealth.
“This budget package fully addresses Philadelphia schools’ projected deficit over the next four years, and probably the fifth year as well,” he said. “But, I need to again make myself absolutely clear: The General Assembly must step up in a meaningful way, starting by applying a weighted formula to all public education funding, not just new funding; enacting reforms to charter school authorization and operation, so that these publicly funded schools are equally transparent and accountable as traditional public schools; and by reviving PlanCon to make badly needed capital improvements to aging, often unhealthy school buildings across the state.
“Council today has authorized robust investments in Philadelphia schools, but all of the progress we make will go out the window if, at minimum, we are not able to control at the local level the proliferation of costly, unaccountable charter schools,” Clarke continued. “I again vehemently disagree with Mayor Kenney’s assertion that Philadelphia taxpayers are alone responsible for our schools. This destructive talking point should not be given credence by any City official, regardless of politics. I will continue to push for change with my colleagues at the state level, and I look forward to working with the new School Board of Philadelphia after they are formally organized.”
Budget-related legislation and documents can be found on the City Council FY 2019 Budget Center website at: www.phlcouncil.com/budget2019.