This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
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Since last spring, District leaders have been sounding the alarm about this year’s fiscal plight, but even after months of handwringing and headlines, schools have opened with less resources than last year.
Here, we take a look back on a summer of false starts, bluffs, and political theatre.
Below, you can view a timeline of the summer’s milestones – with links to archived articles – and also listen to a piece that allows the major players in the funding debate to tell the story in their own voices.
A more detailed accounting
On March 28, the School Reform Commission adopted a lump-sum budget. It showed a need for an additional $220 million in revenue in order to provide schools with the same resources as the "wholly insufficient" 2013-14 school year.
By April 26, that need had been refined to $216 million as Superintendent Hite warned of an "empty shell" scenario, where schools would be unsafe for students to attend.
With classes now into their third week, the District has balanced its budget with a mix of gains, hopes, and cuts:
- $120 million in projected revenue from the city’s decision to make permanent the city’s 8 percent sales-tax rate.
- $30 million from the city’s decision to borrow against future sales tax proceeds.*
- $12 million from Gov. Corbett’s "Ready To Learn" block grant (Corbett initially proposed $29 million but the legislature reduced the figure in budget negotiations).
- $49 million from the projected Philadelphia cigarette tax proceeds. (Pending approval by the legislature and governor).
- $18 million from sales of unused District properties.* (The District is currently in negotiations with buyers for 13 buildings that would cover this amount).
- $2 million from the hope that lower prices can be negotiated with some of the District’s vendors.
- $3.5 million from the hope that the state department of education will stop making payments to charters for students enrolled above agreed-to caps.