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City Council’s Committee on Appropriations on Thursday gave unanimous approval to a $50 million up-front payment to the School District of Philadelphia in exchange for a portfolio of vacant surplus properties. The payment fulfills a request made by the District to the City of Philadelphia on Aug. 8, 2013, for a funding commitment in order to begin the school year on time.
Bill No. 130577 authorizes the City’s Director of Finance to transfer $50 million from the Grants Revenue Fund to the General Fund for disbursement to the District as part of an agreement with the Philadelphia Authority for Industrial Development (PAID). PAID will assume responsibility for marketing and selling the surplus properties, with the first $50 million in revenue to be returned to City taxpayers and all additional revenue to be directed to public schools.
“City Council is keeping its word to Superintendent William Hite and the students in his care,” said Appropriations Committee Chair W. Wilson Goode, Jr. “There’s no doubt that both the school district and the City were dealt a bad hand by the Commonwealth. This proposal addresses a short-term funding need as well as the long-term health of our neighborhoods.”
Council President Darrell L. Clarke said: “Too often, government’s first response to fiscal crisis is to stick its hands in the taxpayer’s pocket. Ironically, a plan from Republican leaders in Harrisburg calls for City Council to do just that. We have found a better way.
“Rather than borrowing $50 million and sticking taxpayers with a bill for $10 million in interest, we are moving forward with a strategy to put vacant school properties in the hands of the City’s real estate arm to market and sell. The evidence strongly suggests that not only will the City get the $50 million back, but the School District could raise millions of dollars on top of that under this plan.”
Bill No. 130577 was introduced on Council President Darrell L. Clarke’s behalf by Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell (3rd District) on Sept. 12, 2013. It is scheduled to appear on City Council’s final passage calendar on Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013. City Council continues to negotiate long-term, sustainable public schools funding with leaders of the General Assembly and with the Corbett Administration.