City Council Hearings on Philly School Budget

On Tuesday May 8that 5 PM, City Council will host a public hearing on raising money for our city and our schools.   Right now, City Council is debating whether to go along with Mayor Kenney’s proposal to fund the schools by increasing property taxes on Philadelphians – without discussing the millions of dollars that corporations, developers and universities refuse to pay.  Decisions made this year will probably last a decade or more.

Philly Neighborhood Networks is part of the Our City Our Schools (OCOS) Coalitionthat has put together a package of ideas that would fund the schools by demanding that big business and wealthy condo-owners, rather than ordinary homeowners, pay more.

JOIN US  Next Tuesday, May 8, at 5 PM  when we will be going to City Council to testify on the proposal. The hearing will take place at City Council Chambers, Room 400 City Hall. Sign up here to testify.

PACK CITY COUNCIL.We expect the Chamber of Commerce and other big business interests will be testifying as well – so it’s important that we show up in force.  Please RSVP here to let us know you are coming.

You can find all the details of the proposal here. But below are the highlights:

  • End the City’s Real Estate Tax Abatement Program.If not totally ending, we’re looking to restrict the abatement to areas of continuing need outside of Center City, or to properties developed for lower income families.
  • Stop Any Reductions in the Big Business Tax.These cuts have been occurring regularly for two decades and have not had the desired result of reducing poverty in the City. Good schools are the real answer to poverty, not handing out tax cuts to big business.
  • Increase Taxes on Corporate Landlords.The Use & Occupancy Tax is essentially a supplemental real estate tax on owners of large commercial properties, many of whom have recently received windfall tax cuts from the Trump Administration. They should share that windfall with our schools.
  • PaymentsFrom Universities and other Mega Non-Profits. We are demanding that large “nonprofits” like the University of Pennsylvania and Jefferson Hospital make payments to the City – sometimes called Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) – to an extent that approximates what they would pay but for their non-profit exemptions. Rather than true non-profits, these entities are huge, successful businesses and they should share in the privilege of funding our schools.
  • Create a Philadelphia Public Bank.We are asking the City to create a public bank modeled on the Bank of North Dakotathat for almost 100 years has reinvested North Dakota government funds to serve the needs of the people of that state. Creating a Philadelphia Public Bank would enable the School District to refinance much of its debt at far lower interest rates, shifting funds from Wall Street to the business of teaching students.

That’s our package. It’s not written in stone, but we think it sets a tone and direction that we can all get behind. To get it passed, however, we will need to show City Council overwhelming support. Doing that starts with showing up in large numbers at City Council next Tuesday at 5 PM.Please join us, and if you have a moment, let us know that you’ll be there by return email.

Thanks for all you do.

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Margaret Lenzi

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