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District delivers ‘large box’ of docs to mayor

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

In keeping with the agreement with the city and state reached last week, the School District has given Mayor Nutter a box of documents as a response to his request for extensive additional information about how it spends its money.

Citing the need for increased transparency, Nutter’s nine-page letter to the School Reform Commission asked for everything from its organizational chart to details about expense accounts.

Vague word, however, on when the documents will be released to the public.

"We’ve received a large box of documents, and we’re reviewing what was sent over," said Nutter spokesman Mark McDonald. He said they would be released to the public "soon," but would not say what "soon" meant.

McDonald also would not say whether Council had been given the information on the eve of its consideration of tax bills Nutter has proposed to raise money for the District. A spokesperson for Councilman Bill Green said that they had not received anything yet.

City Council is scheduled to consider Thursday a two-cent per ounce tax on soda and other sugary beverages and a 10 percent increase in the property tax. Mayor Nutter is looking to raise $102 million that the District has asked for from the city. So far, the word in City Hall is that Nutter is still short of the nine votes needed for the tax increases.

In a call to Radio Times Tuesday morning, Nutter said he was still working on getting the bills passed and that the focus should remain on the "needs of children." He said the School Reform Commission has done its job in passing a balanced budget — one, of course, that required cuts of $629 million, and that despite recent maneuvers still does not include funds for the District’s yellow bus program and incorporates deep cuts to accelerated schools and several other core programs.

Superintendent Arlene Ackerman has said she will redirect some federal aid to pay for full-day kindergarten, and SEPTA has pledged to work out a way to avert the elimination of the District’s TransPass program.

The SRC will vote on an amended budget this summer that will make those changes and other adjustments based on decisions by the city and state on school aid.

Ackerman’s move to save kindergarten with the federal dollars caught Nutter by surprise and apparently instigated his call for the additional information from the District in the name of credibility and transparency.