City Council will break up its vote on the city’s budget, taking two separate votes — one on a spending plan that includes more money for the school district, and one on Mayor Michael Nutter’s controversial Actual Value Initiative.
Council President Darrell Clarke made the announcement Monday June 4.
Exactly how that will be accomplished remained unclear.
“I simply ask members of the press to stay tuned,” Clarke told reporters gathered at a city hall press conference.
Clarke’s announcement came as state Sen. Larry Farnese announced that he would kill a piece of legislation that would have required two votes on the budget.
“That’s all my amendment ever did,” he said. “The way that City Council would have done it was always within their purview.”
The mayor’s spokesman, Mark McDonald, said the administration was not concerned with process as long as AVI moved forward and the district got more money.
“That’s really Council’s business how they put together a series of bills,” he said. The process they think important to follow is for them to do.”
Whether the proposals will pass, even after separated, remains a looming question.
Clarke declined to predict.
“That still must be determined by a minimum of nine members,” he said.
Council has already missed the June 1 deadline to approve a budget, but must take action by the end of the month. The city’s fiscal year starts July 1.
Members have been wrestling with the budget for months, trying to reconcile opposition to Nutter’s proposal to enact AVI — a change in the way property taxes are collected from a fractional value to full-market value — while providing more money for a cash-strapped school district.
The district faces a $312 million budget without assistance from the city.
Administration and district officials have requested $94 million, which would be provided under Nutter’s plans for AVI.
Council members have concerns about both.
Many are concerned that AVI is essentially a back door tax increase, and want the administration to wait a year before putting it in place.
A large number are also concerned about the district’s finances, and the fact that time and again school officials have come to Council asking for increasing amounts of money.
“Again, we’re being asked to put more money on the table for the school district,” Clarke said. “We’re all concerned about our children. But, at the end of the day, there has to be a basis for putting money in a school district that is not producing adequate results.”
Any allocation for the school district is likely to include more Council involvement in district finances.
“Some members of Council are working on language that talks about the accountability measures that we would like to see before we’re comfortable in proceeding with providing additional funding for the school district,” Clarke said Monday.
Council and the school district went through a similar game of back and forth last year, when former Superintendent Arlene Ackerman told Council that without additional city money the district would have to eliminate full-day kindergarten.
In the end, that turned out not to be true.
Council has raised property taxes for the last three years.