This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
If the budget proposals of Gov. Wolf and Mayor Nutter were passed, the School District of Philadelphia could realize a revenue bump of $289 million next year.
Here’s the math: $159 million in basic education and special education funding from the state, plus $25 million in savings from charter funding reform plus $105 million from Nutter’s proposed budget.
That’s nearly enough to hit the District’s $309 million funding goal. But the state and city funding increases are contingent upon lawmakers agreeing to different and, in some cases, more taxes.
The mayor’s budget plan depends on a 9.34 percent increase to city property taxes, a move likely to be unpopular in an election year and coming after property tax hikes in 2010 and 2011. Nutter, however, said that only about 30 percent of property owners saw an increase to their tax bills when the Actual Value Initiative rolled out in 2011.
Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, a supporter of traditional public schools, said that although she supports Wolf’s budget plan, local support for increasing taxation is a big fat "none."
Nutter argued that Wolf’s proposed property tax relief at the state level would offset the proposed hike to local property taxes in the year 2017.
Moved to emotion at several points during his final budget address as mayor, Nutter said, "I don’t want to raise your taxes. But I do want to educate our children."
Philly’s contribution to schools over time
During the 2000s, city contributions for the Philadelphia School District rose in tandem with the state’s funding. Under Gov. Tom Corbett, however, the state cut back its stake in funding Philadelphia schools, and the city scrambled to contribute more.
Increasing property taxes, sales tax and the cigarette tax all bumped up the city’s contribution. As Nutter acknowledged in his address, over the last five years, City Council invested "more than $360 million annual recurring funding in public education — the largest five-year increase in local contribution … over the last 30 years."
Even so, many cities nationwide contribute more proportionally to their school districts than Philadelphia does.
Not everyone agrees that means that the city should be spending even more.