Mayor Nutter addresses city on budget, education

June 15, 2011 8:53:15 PM PDT
Mayor Michael Nutter took his budget message to the Philadelphia public in an address at 6abc studios Wednesday evening.

"Tonight I'm asking Philadelphians to come together in one loud rallying cry. We want to vote for students. A vote for the young people of our city. It's time to take a stand," Nutter said.

In an impassioned plea on live television on 6abc, which lasted just over 6 minutes, Mayor Michael Nutter urged viewers to take a stand for children in the Philadelphia School District which faces a $629-million budget gap.

"Many teachers and programs won't be there for our children if we just do nothing or make bad choices. Well, I will not stand by and let children today suffer tomorrow," Nutter said.

The mayor has proposed a controversial 2-cents per ounce tax on sweetened beverages or a 10-percent property tax hike both of which have been opposed by City Council.

Among the most vocal critics is Republican Councilman Brian O'Neill.

"Those kids shouldn't be involved in this. Using kids as pawns in this argument. The School District has been just totally incompetent in this; no one has any confidence in them," O'Neill said.

O'Neill who watched the mayor's speech before a meeting with constituents in Northeast Philadelphia says the School District should not receive any more money until it proves to be accountable and the city should not be raising taxes, while its sitting on a 50 million dollar surplus.

"I didn't hear anything new from the mayor and I was hoping to, it's the same old, 'We need to raise taxes again.' We just raised taxes last year," O'Neill said.

If the speech was not a game changer for Councilman O'Neill and possibly other council members, Action News wanted to know what residents thought.

"With this new tax, if it helps the schools, helps the city, helps the kids, ultimately and helps us be more healthy, than go for it," Ed Delahunity of Center City said.

"I don't think it's right cause there's tax on everything and now they're putting tax on sodas and Powerades; it's bad enough that they're already hight," Rasheeda Arrington of West Philadelphia said.

A mixed bag of reactions, but there are indications that some city councilmembers may consider a lesser soda tax than what the mayor is proposing.

A hearing on public school funding tomorrow is scheduled for 9:00 a.m. Thursday in City Council Chambers.

RELATED: Mayor, Teamsters at odds over soda tax

Earlier Wednesday, Mayor Michael Nutter joined the coalition of Philadelphia school students who marched on City Hall, demanding more funds for the school district to offset planned layoffs and program cuts.

He was trying to rally support for the two tax increase proposals to raise money for the schools.

The students followed the mayor into City Hall. The mayor dropped out to return to his second floor office, but someone directed them to the fourth floor where many council members offices are and to the empty council chamber.

The orderly youngsters never got an audience with a council member.

The major players on City Council have been in closed door meetings all week. Publicly, they are still saying no to the mayor's call for a tax on sugar sweetened drinks and no to his call for a 10% real estate tax hike.

"I don't believe there are 9 votes for either tax, the real estate tax or the soda tax," Councilwoman Marion Tasco said.

There is talk the council may try to raid the city's $50-million surplus to give to the schools which are over $600-million in the hole.

"We need to stay focused on the task at hand which is providing additional resources, not just shuffling the deck and hoping a better card comes up," Mayor Nutter said.