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Mayor Nutter urges SRC not to adopt an 'empty shell' budget

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In a letter today to the members of the School Reform Commission, Mayor Nutter urges the SRC "to refrain from passing a budget that would include cuts that are so painful that they raise serious questions about whether it is safe to open schools."

The SRC meets at 5:30 this evening to adopt a District budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year. Despite a legal deadline of May 31, commissioners postponed adoption of a budget last month, saying there was not sufficient revenue to pay for needed services.

Nutter's letter to the SRC says that if nothing changes in Harrisburg, the adoption of a state budget anticipated as soon as tonight could leave the District with a $93 million hole. Rather than cutting to eliminate this anticipated deficit, the mayor says, "I urge you to pass a budget that anticipates positive action from Harrisburg as they continue to work to finalize their budget."

Republicans in the legislature have been working with Gov. Corbett to come up with a state budget plan that does not contain new revenues and includes less funding for education than school districts were expecting.

Meanwhile, a sit-in by proponents of school funding continues in the Capitol. And Corbett and Democratic legislators are doing battle over a demand from the governor for legislative action on his proposal to cut pension benefits as a prerequisite for state approval of a $2-per-pack cigarette tax proposed for Philadelphia. That tax proposal, awaiting state approval for a full year, is a critical piece of the District's plan for averting massive budget cuts.

In a letter sent this weekend to the Philadelphia delegation in Harrisburg, Superintendent William Hite and SRC Chair Bill Green put in a plea for support for additional revenues, estimating their budget gap at an amount as high as $105 million.

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Paul Socolar

@PaulSocolar
Paul is the Notebook's former editor and publisher and also one of its founders in 1994.