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SRC likely to vote on budget without knowing state revenue

By Dale Mezzacappa on Jun 27, 2014 05:46 PM

The School Reform Commission is likely to vote on a budget Monday without knowing how much money the District will be getting from the state.

Intense budget maneuvering during the week will continue into the weekend, but it is entirely possible that the General Assembly will miss its June 30 deadline for approving a state budget.

Gov. Corbett said he would hold out past the deadline until he got support for his priorities, which include pension reform and privatization of state liquor stores. 

As of Friday, the House had passed a budget that includes no new revenue sources and would virtually wipe out increases for education spending that Corbett had proposed. That plan would eliminate about $20 million of the funds that the District was counting on from the state.

And that budget doesn't include authorization for a city $2-a-pack cigarette tax that would bring in about $40 million for the schools next year and $80 million a year after that.

The latest reports also indicated that the Senate wasn't interested in passing any new sources of revenue -- meaning that it is likely that Philadelphia schools won't get additional money from the state.

The bottom line so far for Philadelphia is that it needs $66 million just to reach this year's level of sparse services. If the House budget is what is ultimately adopted, that shortfall will grow by at least $20 million -- which means the likelihood of hundreds of more layoffs, larger classes, and longer walks for students to schools as transportation funding is cut. 

"The District will be presenting a budget on Monday for consideration by the SRC that has in it our current understanding of the revenues from the city for fiscal year 2015," said spokesman Fernando Gallard. "At this point, Friday, we don't have sufficient clarity from the state to be able to say what is going to be included from the state. We will wait for Monday when hopefully we will have a better understanding."

Harrisburg Republicans have made clear that they expect Philadelphia's delegation to play ball in the last-minute dealmaking if there is to be any relief for the city's schools. Specifically, they want votes for the pension reform, which is anathema to unions that form the core of the Democrats' support, and for other Corbett priorities including liquor privatization.

As the deadline loomed closer, SRC chairman Bill Green said: "I’m hopeful that members of Philly’s delegation will hold their nose and take some votes that will enable the District to get the required funding.”

State Budget Director Charles Zogby was quoted saying that "If Philadelphia Democrats aren't going to be there for what needs to be done, then nobody's going to be there for them. And they can go home and tell their constituents why they couldn't get money for the School District."

That sentiment was echoed by House Republican spokesman Steve Miskin, who said that if the city Democrats "continue to be a 'no' on everything," the cigarette tax is off the table.

Advocates say that this attitude is using the city's children as pawns.

"They're saying that if Philadelphia wants anything for schools, they have to make a deal on pensions," said Susan Gobreski, executive director of Education Voters PA. "That's totally putting kids in the center of the political maelstrom."

Gobreski said it was one thing to horse-trade for votes for favored programs and add-ons, but another thing to make deals just to get students a bare minimum of services.

Superintendent William Hite has been quoted as saying that if cuts have to be made beyond what the District already absorbed this year, schools will be "empty shells."

"That they would say, 'We'll starve your kids if you don't give us what we want' -- that's shocking," said Gobreski.

Gallard said that District lobbyists would be keeping tabs on developments over the weekend.

"We are continuing to work with Harrisburg and hope for the best," he said.

Kevin McCorry of NewsWorks contributed reporting.

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Comments (28)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 27, 2014 7:23 pm
Woah, I'm not used to seeing school funding so explicitly used as a bargaining chip. This is exactly why we need a fair funding formula. Funding should be clear and based on need--not because your delegation votes for a political issue those in control favor. Even if the fair funding formula doesn't provide enough money, at least it's consistent and doesn't require horse trading to get.
Submitted by Poogie (not verified) on June 27, 2014 9:00 pm
Cigarette tax yielding $40 million might be OK. But any more funding will only go to Charters and Experimental schools.
Submitted by Teachin' (not verified) on June 27, 2014 10:22 pm
Because this is about controlling and punishing fellow politicians, not providing a future for our nation's children.
Submitted by Teachin' (not verified) on June 27, 2014 10:56 pm
"State Budget Director Charles Zogby was quoted saying that "If Philadelphia Democrats aren't going to be there for what needs to be done, then nobody's going to be there for them." Because this is about controlling and punishing fellow politicians, not providing a future for our nation's children.
Submitted by Stephen Miskin (not verified) on June 28, 2014 6:13 am
The question is, unlike every other member who stands by his or her position with a vote, Philly Ds seem to think they shouldn't have too. We have a very difficult budget here in PA, people across the state have needs, not just Philadelphians. We all need to think a little less about what is important to "me" and a little more on what is important to "us." That said, last year, every member of the Philadelphia Democratic delegation voted AGAINST the school funding for Philadelphia. Only the Republicans in the House came to the aid of Philadelphia. Many of those members were hit back home in their districts -- who also needed funding -- for, how their constituents loo at it, taking money from their schools to send to Philadelphia. So, again, the question is unlike every other member who stands by his or her position with a vote, Philly Ds seem to think they shouldn't have too. We have a very difficult budget here in PA, people across the state have needs, not just Philadelphians. We all need to think a little less about what is important to "me" and a little more on what is important to "us."
Submitted by Ms.Cheng (not verified) on June 28, 2014 10:28 am
Philly Democrats stay in office based on their ability to blame lack of funding on Harrisburg, plus they hate math.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 28, 2014 12:53 pm
So why won't they accept City Council's cigarette tax?
Submitted by A. Skopp (not verified) on June 28, 2014 10:32 am
Does this governor not realize he is pushing himself right out of office? Oh I am sure it does not matter to him since what he is doing to our state is f'ing it up for everyone except those few individuals he is in partnership with. God, November can not come soon enough, but he continues to damage our great state and more specifically the children and working class in it.
Submitted by Poogie (not verified) on June 28, 2014 2:58 pm
The Republicans seem to have decided to keep their no new tax pledge and come up with a budget based upon gimmicks that sort of funds education and something that Corbett can point to as an improvement over the last three years. It seems to me the Republicans have given up on Corbett and are concentrating on blaming Wolfe for the mess that occurs next year. Next budget will be a mess when the gimmicks come home to roost and cannot be replaced. The Mess will be Wolfe's fault because he will have been in office for at least 4 months when the crap hits the fan. So it is his doing not the the Republicans right??? The Republicans could take the Medicaid expansion to solve some of these problems but they cannot since it might make Obama look good even though refusing screws Pennsylvania voters. But who cares?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 29, 2014 5:14 pm
Philly D's seem to be saying give us the money we want/need (in a horrendous financial climate), but don't ask us to support anything others in the state need. That's just stupid and not true negotiation. This isn't a Republican/Democrat issue. It's a Philadelphia and the rest of the state issue. The new governor will not be from Philadelphia. Senate and House leaders are not from Philadelphia. Why do you think the rest of the state should give everything with nothing in return? There are poor districts all over the state - not just Philadelphia. No pension reform will lead to more problems for future budgets. Just more money going to a corrupt system. Aren't teacher pensions part of the huge pensions debt? Has the PFT stepped up to negotiate? See why people in other parts of the state hate Philly?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 29, 2014 7:02 pm
Why doesn't the state let Philadelphia control its own finances such as the cigarette tax? The teachers have already lost step in creases and have not had a wage increase in years. They are lower paid than many school districts. The pension crisis is because under Corbett the state has not been paying its portion. Teachers have been putting into the pension fund all along.
Submitted by gloriaendres (not verified) on June 30, 2014 5:40 am
Exactly right and especially about the pension "holiday" Harrisburg (not only Corbett) took for over a decade. School workers put in their share consistently, but the state basically raided the pension fund to pay other debts. No one else has mentioned all the billions put into prison construction in this state. And the insane refusal to tax the frackers with an extraction tax. Corbett is only concerned with pushing a privatization agenda from schools to liquor sales to the lottery, you name it. Of course, he also wants to change the pension system to a private system of 401(k)s. If it can be privatized in any way, he is for it. But using Philadelphia's children as hostages to his agenda is simply too outrageous for words.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 29, 2014 7:37 pm
Pensions affect every public employee is the state. Why should a cigarette tax passed by Philadelphia City Council be held hostage so Corbett can get his way on pensions?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 29, 2014 11:25 pm
Because that's the only way Philly D's may vote for a needed fix to the pension problem. We are in this mess (pensions and education funding) because politicians have pushed off the hard decisions for years. Union contracts, district finances and state budgets have been negotiated by mortgaging our future with things like pensions. Now, it's simply time to pay and everyone is afraid to step up. The D's are wrong because they need to deal and realize that pensions need to be addressed - NOW. The R's are wrong because a "no new tax" policy in the face of declining revenues doesn't make sense. We elect people to political office to lead and make hard decisions based upon the facts, not to only make decisions that are popular or in line with political supporters. This Governor is horrible, but he's correct in this position. Basically, he's going to give in on raising a tax, if D's give in on pensions. Not the cleanest and best options, but if it doesn't go through you have to give a large part of the blame to the Philly delegation. One party politics only works in Philly.
Submitted by gloriaendres (not verified) on June 30, 2014 5:44 am
The pension fund for school workers had a surplus when the state decided over a decade ago to simply stop paying its share. That is not the fault of the workers but an administrative decision that has simply kicked the can and used the fund as a piggy bank. Now to fix the deficit it caused, the state wants to privatize the pension system.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on June 30, 2014 12:00 pm
It's morally wrong to use a constitutionally-mandated service for children, education, as a bargaining chip.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on June 30, 2014 12:11 pm
Who knows, but it will only hurt Corbett in the end. Just think of the negative campaign ads Tom Wolf can make regarding Corbett holding education money hostage, especially for the School District of Philadelphia.
Submitted by huh? (not verified) on June 29, 2014 6:55 pm
Why was it too awful to pass in May but OK to pass in June?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 30, 2014 5:35 am
Give us a minor league baseball stadium in Altoona, and we'll give money for a dryer lint museum in Philadelphia (or something to that extent) is one thing. But using EDUCATION as a bargaining chip? Wow!
Submitted by coco (not verified) on June 30, 2014 10:25 am
Not a single politician or SRC member would allow their child to attend a public school without a nurse or functioning library, overcrowded classrooms, and an unsafe environment. But apparently it's okay for Philadelphia school children. Harrisburg to Philly kids: DROP DEAD!
Submitted by Education Grad ... on June 30, 2014 1:10 pm
State Budget Director Charles Zogby was quoted saying that "If Philadelphia Democrats aren't going to be there for what needs to be done, then nobody's going to be there for them. And they can go home and tell their constituents why they couldn't get money for the School District." --- Charles Zogby is flat-out wrong. The State Constitution requires providing for a "thorough and efficient" system of public education. Funding for education is not something that should be used a bargaining chip or come with strings attached. Children have a constitutional right to an education. Charles Zogby's comments show that he is not acting in the best interests of citizens because he is placing conditions on providing constitutionally-mandated services. It's not about Philadelphia Democrats. It's about the General Assembly doing its job and honoring the Constitution. And Democrats will dig up statements like this from Zogby and use them for attack ads during election season.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 30, 2014 3:09 pm
Zogby has a big mouth on all matters but his own family matters. His wife is charged with crimes below and Charles Zogby is charged with underfunding schools and make inappropriate comments about everything but what he should. Of course, because politics played a part of his wife's (Zogby)sentence she got a slap on the wrist unlike any ordinary person would get for same numerous charges. Here is article below about wife of Zogby and her crimes committed CARLISLE, Pa. (WHTM) - The wife of Pennsylvania Budget Secretary Charles Zogby has been found guilty of charges she fled from a state trooper while driving under the influence last year. Georgina Zogby, 48, was convicted Friday during a non-jury trial before Cumberland County Court of Common Pleas Judge Edward Guido. The charges against her included a third-degree felony count of fleeing and eluding, a misdemeanor count of DUI, and several summary traffic violations. According to charging documents, Zogby was alone in her car when a trooper found it stopped in Monroe Township in the early hours of July 10, 2011. The trooper pulled behind her and activated his emergency lights, but Zogby looked in her driver side mirror and drove away, police said in the documents. Zogby continued to drive as the trooper followed with emergency lights activated, failed to stop at a stop sign, and at one point waved her arm from her window for the trooper to pass, police said. She continued to drive after stop sticks were used, but was eventually pulled over when two more troopers assisted with a rolling road block, according to the documents. Police said they "tactically removed" Zogby from her car after she refused several orders to exit. A blood-alcohol test was deemed a refusal after Zogby said she first wanted to speak to her husband and did not understand the implied consent warnings. Zogby last month was sentenced to 90 days of house arrest for a second drunken driving arrest last year. She pleaded guilty to those charges in York County court in April. Authorities said Zogby had a blood-alcohol content of .117 when she crashed and overturned a BMW last September near her Fairview Township home. In May, she was sentenced to five years of probation and 60 hours of community service after she pleaded guilty to two counts of retail theft in Cumberland County. Prosecutors said she was caught shoplifting at the TJ Maxx store in Hampden Township in January 2010 and stole groceries from the Wegmans in Silver Spring Township in May of 2011.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 30, 2014 5:36 pm
It's all that guilt over the horrible things her husband has done that drives her into a life of crime.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 30, 2014 10:13 pm
State spending overall increases 2.5%. Philadelphia wants more money for its schools. OK. So the villain is the guy who offers more money for the schools, but only if the state joins the rest of the civilized world ex Utah in getting out of the liquor store business. Philadelphia leads the special interest no vote in lockstep with their machine. Because state liquor stores and public employees unions truly are their highest priority. Forced to choose where $1 goes, schoolkids will lose out to state store workers every day of the week. State store workers kick back. And most of the voters in Philly are this stupid- they believe there is a magical unicorn that poops hundred million dollar bills, an unlimited amount of other peoples money that makes it completely unnecessary to ever prioritize public spending, that some mysterious mid-Pennsylvania force is the cause of their fiscal problems instead of the the machine they mindlessly vote for.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 30, 2014 11:16 pm
There is nothing "mysterious" about mid-Pennsylvania. You keep showing us your ignorance about simple economics over and over again. Your real estate taxes are about to go up because Corbett continues corporate tax breaks and won't tax Marcellas shale like very other state. He kept his no new taxes pledge....he just passed the revenue problem on to your community. It's easier to bash Philadelphia than to notice that!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 1, 2014 8:11 am
SMH - You and "Tax Payer" ought to take your act on the road. Two ignorant peas in a pod! You are right about prioritizing , which is better for the State in the long run, funding education and social services to create a educated and healthy work force and citizenry OR keep giving tax breaks to large companies and organizations who don't give a crap about Pennsylvania or its people and will pull up stakes and move whenever someone asks them to pay their fair share?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 1, 2014 8:52 am
Marcellas shale must be laughing their behinds off at "mid-Pennsylvania people. They come in and make Millions (Billions?) of dollars taking OUR natural resources for their use and we just stand by and let them, without so much as a courtesy tax. Meanwhile we cannot educate our kids or take care of our people. Yeah, you're right, we Philadelphia people are pretty stupid (rolling eyes) - smh
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 1, 2014 4:15 pm
Please tell me where the revenue stream created by the liquor stores will be made up. If you think private business will pay more in liquor tax than the state currently generates, you may be a little off base.

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