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Zogby: There's talk in Harrisburg of vesting SRC with taxing power

By the Notebook on Sep 23, 2013 07:22 PM
Photo: Harvey Finkle

A School Reform Commission meeting in March 2013.

by Holly Otterbein for NewsWorks

Could the state-controlled Philadelphia School Reform Commission soon decide how much city residents pay in sales taxes?

Gov. Corbett's budget secretary, Charles Zogby, said there has been talk in Harrisburg of changing the law to give the SRC that power if City Council does not quickly extend a 1 percent local sales tax that was due to expire.

The tax extension, a key part of Corbett's funding package for Philadelphia's cash-strapped School District, would raise up to $120 million for the schools in future years and allow the city to borrow $50 million for them now. The General Assembly authorized the sales tax changes this summer.

"There's just so much patience that I think folks are going to be prepared to exercise," Zogby said. "If City Council is unwilling to act, I think there'll be those in Harrisburg who will say, 'Well, then maybe we need to look at another path and take City Council out of the picture.'"

Council members have balked at Corbett's funding plan, which they see as desperately short on state dollars. They want to instead split the local sales tax money between the schools and the city's troubled pension fund, and make up the difference with more state funding and a new cigarette tax.

Mayor Nutter supports those changes as a whole package, but he wants Council to pass the sales-tax extension now so the city can immediately borrow money for the schools. To raise extra money for this year, Council prefers giving the District $50 million in exchange for several properties.

Zogby would not say who, exactly, is talking about giving the SRC power over the city's sales tax or whether Corbett would endorse it. He said only that the idea has been "raised in some quarters."

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Comments (40)

Submitted by rob (not verified) on September 23, 2013 8:37 pm
I dont think it is possible to have an non-elected entity deciding sales tax for the city. This is just wishful thinking
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on September 23, 2013 8:38 pm
So an ex-bus matron could possibly determine sales taxes? Yeah, but no. Not happening.
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on September 23, 2013 10:08 pm
Unless there is another Joe K., that is not I. However, I strongly agree with the silliness of it all. By the way, think about it, The SRC has proven to all of Phila. that they're shills for big money, replete with corruption and total indifference to morality on all levels. So they're going to be given taxing authority?? Only One Term Tom and his lap dog, Zogby, could think to further foist such disrespect on Philly.
Submitted by PFTeacher (not verified) on September 26, 2013 7:03 am
A traitor ex-bus aide at that. No, it won't happen.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 23, 2013 8:14 pm
O this just gets fantastiker and fantastiker!
Submitted by Poogie (not verified) on September 23, 2013 9:37 pm
An Excellent idea otherwise Darell Clarke will steal that money from children to pay his DROP benefits!
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on September 24, 2013 8:01 am
I agree with you Poogie. The sales tax extension was only authorized because the schools needed it, not because Council passed an unsustainable pension plan. Council has no negotiating leg to stand on with the State. We know they have $50 million at the ready for their own real estate schemes in the general fund; but they lie about its availability, and say this is for future rainy days in order to not be responsible for the schools.
Submitted by Go-Eagles (not verified) on September 24, 2013 9:27 am
Poogie & Ms. Cheng - I'd echo some caution here. If the state gives vexing to the city to raise taxes, it now puts the emphasis on the city to fund the school district. In other words, regardless of the state constitution, it gives an out for the state not to fund the district. With no Philly presence in Harrisburg, look for that money to go to the other school districts, as if it's not happening already right now.
Submitted by Poogie (not verified) on September 24, 2013 11:34 am
Yeah it would be dangerous precedent. But it would expose the leadership of Philadelphia for the venal, powerless and irrelevant people they are. At this point I and most people in the city would prefer rule by Corbett to these clowns. At least Corbett did something all the Democrats in the city would to do is get their hands on 1/2 the sales tax money and sell the school buildings to there cronies. Pitiful behavior.
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on September 24, 2013 2:09 pm
Go-Eagles I don't know if you realize that the State decides how much of a district's schools funding comes from it, and how much comes from local sources to begin with. It has a formula based on the relative (to the rest of the State) wealth of the residents in that district. All cities in the Commonwealth are but agents of the State (see Harrisburg's attempt to file for bankruptcy which was thrown out for that reason.) All taxes levied in a district/municipality have to be first approved by the State, because this figures into the overall tax burden that the State creates for its residents. So considering this, this is the scenario that Council is presenting to the State: City of Philadelphia: "Our schools need more money." State: "O.k. we'll authorize additional local taxes to give you more money." City of Philadelphia: "We're taking half for our pensions. We need more." So, see why Philly has the reputation it has with the rest of the State?
Submitted by Poogie (not verified) on September 24, 2013 4:01 pm
An excellenet analysis of the repute to which Philadelphia is held in the rest of the Commonwealth. The curent stagegy iof the SRC and PFT is a non starter. You cannot shame the state into coming up with more money for Philadelphia Schools. More than half the SRC comes from non local sources. The only other districts that do this are places like Rankin, Braddock and Chester. No one fells sorry for them why feel sorry for Philadelphia? Let's image a republican legislator in say Clearfield County going to his voters and saying "we have to give Philadelphia more money even though they pay a lower percentage of school costs then you guys pay. We have to pay this because so many parents have no jobs and they do such a poor job of raising their children that they need things like cops in the hallways which we do not have in our schools. So pay up more of your tax money to help them. How long would this guy be a legislator? The only solution is to take the whole 1% sales tax and see if we can get other taxes so that the Philadelphia contribution to educating its children is more in line with the rest of the state. The state is never going to let Darell Clarke take half that money so we risk losing it all.
Submitted by Go-Eagles (not verified) on September 24, 2013 7:24 pm
Couldn't agree more.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 24, 2013 8:29 pm
It was long an open secret that Clarke was planning on using the sales tax money for that. What does it say about the state purposefully choosing a solution that would muck up what was to be the council president's key initiative? I'm not saying I'm happy with Clarke right now but I understand his reaction somewhat.
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on September 24, 2013 9:59 pm
Had it not been for the District's need, the additional sales tax was to have ended. How could Clarke bank on what was to be nonexistent? It would appear Clarke is being the obstructionist in order to leverage his own plan to take ownership of the District's property.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 24, 2013 9:16 pm
No, everyone in Harrisburg knew for several years the plan was to make the sales tax permanent for Philadelphia's pensions. Corbett's "rescue" was designed specifically with twisting the knife in Philadelphia politicians in mind.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 25, 2013 2:25 am
Duh. No tax in Philadelphia is ever temporary. Just never question why the city bureaucracy headcount must be maintained at 1965 levels with constantly increasing pay and benefits. We must run the city as if computers were never invented and we still have 500,000 more citizens.
Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on September 25, 2013 5:20 am
Yes, City government needs to be streamlined. City workers also need to contribute more to their pension. There has to be the political will - this is not present in City Council nor in Nutter's administration. There are far too many Deputies and their many underlings in the Nutter administration.
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on September 25, 2013 9:23 am
The cost of DROP to Philadelphia schools? Already $258 million (from 2010): The top 5 beneficiaries together, equal about 2-1/2 million alone. Sorry, but I support Corbett here.
Submitted by ConcernedRoxParent (not verified) on September 25, 2013 10:52 am
The sad thing is that most of the "sane" union members (DC 47 and 33) realize that Drop isn't an option for us (it will be long gone when I retire) and have been investing in other things (deferred comp). Also, we also realize that new wmployees (especially those in 47) that most of our new employees don't stick around for more than 5 years before they move on, they would much rather be in a 401k or hybrid type program. The problem is our incompetent union leadership wants to keep lining their pockets! I will say the health care is a killer (if you want personal choice it is $500+/month). But you get what you pay for. The killer about drop is the people for who it wasn't intended (City Council,. Police/Fire Commissioners, etc) who retire get their DROP payout and then return to work the next day. OK, sorry....that was my 2 cent rant on DROP and city workers (of which I am one ;-))
Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on September 25, 2013 11:30 am
The main beneficiaries of drop are City Council, the mayor, and high ranking police / fire. It is a crime against the citizens of Philly and students in particular. There is no reason anyone needs to leave with over a half a million plus a pension.
Submitted by ConcernedRoxParent (not verified) on September 26, 2013 7:02 am
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on September 25, 2013 8:50 am
If that is so, the question is, what were they getting in return for that plan that they feel they no longer need? Votes? Changing this plan could be a move against those advocating for, or benefiting from the pensions, or it could simply be a Republican platform move to reduce/control government spending. What is DROP costing our schools?
Submitted by Poogie (not verified) on September 25, 2013 12:57 pm
Think about it the City of Philadelphia cannot pay nearly the same percentage of school funding from local sources as do every other school district. Yet is can afford outstandingly outrageous DROP payments to council members and other high ranking officials who are all connected to the Democratic machine. And they expect by crying"of you are being unfair to the children" anyone cares? End DROP and apply that money to the schools Darrell instead of stealing 1/2 the sales and selling school property to your friends.
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on September 25, 2013 2:01 pm
Absolutely. Darrell don't forget you were elected, not appointed.
Submitted by (not verified) on March 28, 2014 10:10 am
At household or at office it has turn into one of the fundamental requirements. But, you genuinely require to discover extra than that. At the BIOS you can toggle in and out the initial choice.
Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on September 23, 2013 10:23 pm
Yes, they have done such an excellent job managing schools that of course! they should be in charge of taxes also.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 23, 2013 10:20 pm
While we're at it, let's give them the ability to raise our millage.
Submitted by Headstart teacher (not verified) on September 23, 2013 11:15 pm
So now they can rob the people of Philly with impunity. I. Think. Not. Buh-bye
Submitted by Education Grad ... on September 24, 2013 12:17 am
This proposal to give the SRC the authority to tax is just an attempt on the part of Corbett and the Legislature to avoid bearing the responsibility of funding the District. That's all this is. Corbett and the Republicans will pay for this in the future. It's the ultimate example of putting politics and power before the common good. The reasons for not wanting to fund the District are all political. Philadelphians are primarily Democratic voters. Most children attending District-run schools are Black or Latino/a. The vast majority of Black and Latino/a voters vote for Democrats. PFT members and other union members tend to vote heavily for Democrats. But karma is a witch...being selfish and greedy come back to bite people. EGS
Submitted by Go-Eagles (not verified) on September 24, 2013 9:52 am
EGS - I just saw your post. See my post above. Your post is spot-on. I've said the same thing. Philly is democrat. The republicans wash their hands of SDP.
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on September 24, 2013 9:12 pm
EGS---I love your passion and sense of morality, " but there's a time for every purpose under heaven," as someone once said long before The Byrds made it a hit song. According to that great Theologian Vince Lombardi, "The Best defense is a good offense." Sitting around, waiting for the other shoe to drop on our heads may not be prudent no matter how much we corner the market on morality. The privatizers are moving full speed ahead as Ken Derstine keeps telling us and yet, we sit and sit and wait and wait.
Submitted by Joan Taylor on September 24, 2013 6:15 am
"There's just so much patience that I think folks are going to be prepared to exercise," Zogby said. Yeah...that's what I'm thinking. This incredibly undemocratic grab for total economic control of Philadelphia taxpayers may be the right wing's favorite fantasy (I edited out my more vulgar but accurate first choice), but it's laughable. EGS, please with the "karma is a witch." You want to talk about greed, go where the money is and hound our corporate leaders. I'm tired of constant slams like yours. I was at school until 6 last night, and I'm awash in student essays, which go on endlessly. Please stop picking on me. There is nothing wrong with being modestly middle class, which is all teachers are.
Submitted by Teacher in Philly (not verified) on September 24, 2013 8:39 am
How did that go, back in the 1700's? "No taxation without representation." Uh-uh. Those SRC people were not put here by the people of Philadelphia. There's no end to their arrogance.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 24, 2013 8:17 am
Dworetsky doesn't even live in Philadelphia or Pennsylvania. He lives in California. Why does he even get a say in what happens here?
Submitted by germantowncitizen (not verified) on September 24, 2013 10:01 am
Is this taxation without representation. It appears the SRC is making some recommendations to the city about tax policy, I am ok with that, but if they are given the authority to 'tax' the citizens of PHILADELPHIA, it is evident that the SRC or another school board MUST be elected by the citizens of PHILADELPHIA, so that we may hold them accountable for the decisions that they are making on behalf our children and the public education system in our section of Pennsylvania (just like in the suburbs, go figure!).
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on September 24, 2013 9:10 pm
Yes, they're collective arrogance is staggering and why shouldn't it be? They're accountable to Corbett who is a semi primate at best, devoid of morality for all things Philly. With him, it's not just politics but very personal in my eyes towards the people of Philly including innocent children. Starving the real schools while building prisons is a connection only a devil would make and yet, it continues like a runaway train. Instead of reacting appropriately, WE just sit and wait like dunces. Time is not on our side especially with friends like Pedro, Nutter, Hite and Corbett short sheeting the schools for their own agenda. Maybe we do deserve our demise. P.S. What is not readily known but passed down in Native American Lore is that a day before The Little Big Horn, Custer wanted to attack an Indian Village with only women, the very old and children encamped there. The Indian Scouts, headed by Mitch Boyer, told Custer NOT to attack. Boyer actually convinced Custer that there are some things, even soldiers shouldn't do. Custer screamed obscenities at Boyer but cancelled the attack. The vermin mentioned in the first paragraph are torpedoes for Corbett aimed at their own people and it doesn't get uglier than that.
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on September 24, 2013 9:55 pm
Sorry, their not they're.
Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on September 24, 2013 9:41 pm
Thanks Joe. Your passion and persistence on this topic is appreciated. It has been appreciated by me for a long time. My sense is that a growing number of notebook readers "get" what you are saying. Still waiting for this realization to turn into action. Last evening's SRC meeting was poorly attended. I agree with your sentiment that attending does not change outcomes. However, watching the SRC members concern themselves more with corporate tax breaks than education matters does much to fuel the anger that is necessary to turn this situation around. The next round of school closings is being planned people. We cannot take our eyes off this. As you say Joe, maybe we do deserve our demise.
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on September 24, 2013 10:45 pm
Yes, it's easy to connect these dots and they're so bold as to not even bother to hide the agenda. They set up the environment where the schools must fail and then they blame to schools for failing and close them. It reminds me of The Catholic Church. You are born sick then blamed for it. OK, it's not the best analogy but I'm tired so I better stop before I throw a Westboro Baptist Church comment in here.
Submitted by Stephen Webb (not verified) on October 2, 2013 8:29 am
What is the benefit of giving sales taxes? After all government invests in useless armed forces and I think by this out money goes in a futile act.
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