NBC10- Harry Hairston
Today, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter announces plans to help fill a huge budget gap in the Philadelphia School District by taxing smokers and drinkers. And as NBC10's Harry Hairston reports, that's not going over well with other city leaders.
During a morning news conference at City Hall, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and School Superintendent William Hite talked about the "shared sacrifice" that needs to take place to help the Philadelphia School system.
"If we don't provide the new funding sought by the SRC and Dr. Hite, our young people will suffer under a devastating bare bones budget, and the quality of education in Philadelphia will plummet," said Mayor Nutter.
He added that a lack of quality education hurts the entire city in terms of poverty, unemployment and crime.
Mayor Nutter says Dr. Hite and the School Reform Commission have already cut more than $315 million in school-based costs.
24 schools are slated to close, and school officials have proposed cutting clubs, sports and music programs to account for the massive budget shortfall.
"We are in an economic crisis. I'm going to remain optimistic," said Nutter, who announced a proposed revenue package to help funnel funds back into the School District.
The proposals include a liquor-by-the-drink tax, which is scheduled to start on July 1. That tax will increase from 10% to 15% and Mayor Nutter estimates this will generate approximately $22 million.
Another proposal is the city cigarette tax, which would be $2.00 a pack. Right now, the city has a tobacco tax, but it does not include cigarettes. Mayor Nutter estimates that tax would generate $45 million, in just half a fiscal year.
Both proposals need authorization by the Pennsylvania General Assembly and approval by the Philadelphia City Council.
Mayor Nutter also estimates an additional $28 million will come from collections of delinquent taxes-- including property taxes. "We are going to be the junkyard dogs of revenue collection. It's owed to us and we are going after it."
Dr. Hite says he's thrilled the School District's calls for help have been taken seriously by Mayor Nutter and the city.
"This is not the time to be talking about austerity but instead a time to be talking about investments and investments in the youth of this city," said Dr. Hite.
Tonight, the School Reform Commission is scheduled to meet at 5:30 p.m. Prior to that meeting, a "Save our School" rally is planned outside the School District headquarters. It's being organized by students from Discovery Charter School.
A rally/ walkout involving all public school students is being planned for this Friday at noon.
Philly Student Union has posted a list of public demands and students are raising support for the movement on Twitter.
"ITS OUR EDUCATION AND WE NEED IT NOW! Stop messing with our education just because you already have yours! #walkout215" -Marcus Henderson
"I am so proud of our generation. #walkout215 Keep fighting for your rights."- Gomian Naomi Konneh