Council President Darrell Clarke just came out advocating for trying to solve the School District funding problem by raising taxes, again, and performing accounting tricks, again. Not surprisingly, he essentially presented the same failed playbook that Democrats have used for generations and that made Philadelphia the poorest big city in America.
Repeating himself, the Council President is coming out for raising the sales tax, while adding a $2.00 a pack cigarette tax. The last thing Philadelphia needs is a tax increase, even for “sin” taxes, to fix a problem that doesn’t require taxes to be raised. The “temporary” sales-tax increase from several years ago was enacted as an emergency and temporary stopgap in response to the economic problems of 2008 and is set to expire. Instead, as they did with the “temporary property tax” increase, they want to make it permanent to take more from Philadelphians to increase spending on waste and unimportant programs.
We understand and agree with addressing funding problems in the School District. We believe education should be a major priority for the tax money City Hall collects. We just want to know why the Mayor and Council aren’t treating it as a priority.
City Hall spends almost $4 billion a year. Are we to believe every dollar of that is more important than sending more money to the schools? Of course it isn’t.
Is the yearly $2 million Council slush fund named “Activities Fund” more important than education? No.
Is the yearly $2 million of political payback money (with finder fees!) for Sheriff Sale ads more important than education? No.
Is not collecting billions in property taxes more important than education? No.
Is the $1.5 million in printer-toner misuse in the Water Dept. more important than education? No.
Is $5 million for an ice-skating rink in front of City Hall more important than education? No.
Is not dealing with the municipal-union contract to address pension and health costs to save tens of millions of dollars more important than education? No.
We know City Hall wastes money, doesn’t care about efficiency and only talks about prioritizing spending when it sounds good. In actuality it is “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil”.
Every time Mayor Nutter and Council President Clarke talk about raising taxes to pay for important program “X”, it is really a bait and switch. The higher taxes don’t pay for the important programs; they pay for the waste, fraud and unimportant programs they don’t fix or abandon.
And this doesn’t even address the accounting trick they want to pull off. They want to sell capital assets, i.e., school buildings, to then put that money into the operating budget. This is little different than when the School District borrowed $300 million to fill in the operating budget years ago. It is a debt issue being used to pay for operating costs.
This is like selling your house, still paying the mortgage and using the money to buy food.
Sell the buildings, but either pay off debt, which frees up money every year going forward, or reinvest the money into upgrading remaining schools. Don’t take a long term asset to pay off a short-term budget. It’s a gimmick that just hurts the long-term health of the School District.
It is instructive what Clarke does not see as possible solutions. He has never even broached the possibility the City could cut spending in other areas and help fund public education. Instead of raising taxes, again, and misleading the residents about it, again, let’s actually address prioritization of spending the taxes we do collect.
Republican City Committee would be more than happy to sit down and help with pointing out what in the budget isn’t more important than education if there is difficulty in figuring it out. Nevertheless, public education and public schools are not synonymous terms. Solutions that could help our children include expansion of charter schools or giving vouchers so that parents could consider private schools. However these are other avenues that we do not expect to see Clarke embrace.