Mayor withdraws real estate tax hike after state covers school shortfall

By KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Mayor Jim Kenney has withdrawn his proposal for a real estate tax increase to fund the School District of Philadelphia, after the state Legislature agreed to higher-than-expected school funding. 

The surprise announcement came during Thursday’s daily COVID-19 briefing.

Because of the revenue shortfall created by the stay-at-home order, Kenney proposed raising the school district portion of property taxes by 3.95% to avoid cuts in education spending. However, in a letter to City Council President Darrell Clarke, he said the state funding will eliminate the district’s deficit, so the tax increase is not needed.

Still, the mayor said a tax increase may still be needed in the future.

“This act of the Legislature fills a hole for this year,” Kenney said. “Going forward, we’re going to be in a situation with our schools where they’re going to need more, and as long as I’m mayor, I am not stepping back and letting our kids go through what they went through in 2008, ’09, ’10.”

The tax increase seemed unlikely to pass. Clarke had previously warned the school board not to count on it for its budget.

“I’m not sure there was any support for that increase (in Council) regardless of that letter,” Clarke added. “People are having their very own economic downturn, on a very personal level.”

The mayor also announced at the briefing that the city is almost ready to reveal guidelines for moving into the “yellow” phase of the governor’s reopening plan. 

Health Commissioner Dr. Tom Farley reported continued progress — in the number of new cases and other measures — toward the goal of going “yellow” on June 5.