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Philadelphia Council Moves to Help School District With Budget Crisis

The School District of Philadelphia may finally get one of the many lifelines it is seeking to avoid disastrous layoffs and program cuts for the second year in a row.

On Thursday, the City Council introduced a measure to extend the city's extra1 percent sales tax and allocate the first $120 million in revenues from the first year to the school district, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The district was counting on $120 million from the sales tax extension to help close a $216 million deficit in its $2.49 billion operating budget.  It still needs the $96 million.

In appealing to the state, city, and unions for help, the district said that without the funds it would be forced to make drastic cuts that will limit its ability to educate students. It predicted larger class sizes, nearly 1,000 staff layoffs, and further reductions in school nurses, police, transportation, and administrative support.

To make up the deficit and to expand programs, the district requested a total of $440 million from the state and city and concessions and from its unions.

The revenues from the sales tax extension will be divided between the city and the school, with 70 percent going to the school in 2016 and the other 30 percent to the city.  It will be split evenly in 2018. The city's share will go toward its pension obligations.

CBS Philadelphia reports that the plan—which City Council Majority Leader Curtis Jones called a "Missouri Compromise"—is unlikely to please all the parties involved.

Last year, the state granted permission to the city to extend the local sales tax permanently, intending that all recurring revenues go to the school district to help with the deficit.

If the plan is approved, the district will have to share the money with the city going forward.

City Council President Darrell Clarke backs the measure.

"It is an approach that we think is fair," Clarke said according to CBS. "It is an approach that we think is balanced. We're not asking the state at this point for any additional dollars—just simply giving us an opportunity to raise revenue on a local level."

Clarke Tweeted that the measure will add a minimum of $150 million annually in new city funding, increasing the city's contributions to the school district to $1.07 billion next school year and to $1.14 billion in 2019.

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