School commission signs off on revenue increases passed by City Council
Members of the School Reform Commission approved a resolution that would increase the amount of monies levied against Philadelphia homeowners and businesses for the operation of city schools.
The vote was held during a special meeting on Saturday June 30. Members of the commission voted unanimously for the increase.
“Every school board levies school taxes, except in Philadelphia — because we do not have an elected school board, it is the elected body of City Council that has to authorize the taxes,” explained School Reform Commission chair Pedro Ramos. “What they [Council] have been doing is saying how much taxes we can levy, and we have to take the action.”
The commission originally proposed a $94 million increase for fiscal year 2013. Council granted $40 million, $20 million of which will be in the form of taxes levied on real estate, and another $20 million from the Use and Occupancy taxes on businesses.
“Today’s resolution was a legal procedural requirement that is the last step in deciding on the amount of real estate tax. First City Council had to authorize the tax and then we had to actually levy the tax,” said Ramos. With city council having already decided what the SRC would be allotted, the resolution, according to Ramos, was a legal necessity and a vote in form only.
“It’s an organization that has been in financial crisis a lot, and has been subjected to a lot of variability in its financial circumstances,” said Ramos, during a brief interview after the hearing. “It would have been great for city council to provide greater support, but our responsibility now is to look at every way possible to move forward with safe, high quality schools for all kids, and to look everywhere we can to protect kids from further cuts.”
Ramos said that City Council’s refusal to grant the $94 million originally requested means the district is much worse off than expected.
“We now have to figure out, once again, how to make due with less. We understand that that is our responsibility, and we are going to do that,” said Ramos.