State-run panel approves new Philadelphia teachers' contract

- Philadelphia property owners may want to brace themselves for a big tax hike to pay for the just-approved contract between the city’s school district and their teachers.

The long-overdue deal—which gives teachers pay raises and some back pay, changes work rules and requires health care payments from the union--  will cost $395 million.

That’s $245 million more than the city of Philadelphia has set aside for the deal. Which led the lone dissenting voice in the School Reform Commission's 4-1 ratification vote Tuesday to pose a simple question:

"Where are we going to get that money?" asked SRC member Bill Green.

Moments after teachers voted, overwhelmingly, to approve the deal Monday night, PFT president Jerry Jordan put the funding gap into historical context:

"There is never, EVER, a time when I can remember,” said Jordan, “where a contract has been settled and there has been a boatload of money, just piled up, waiting to pay for a contract."True.

But that doesn't answer the question of WHO will supply that extra quarter-billion dollars. City council is among those on the hot seat.

“We’re happy that our teachers are going to be compensated fairly,” said 4th district Democrat Curtis Jones.  “And we are scratching our heads trying to figured out how to pay for it.”

Without significant help from Harrisburg, SRC member Farah Jimenez (who voted to ratify the contract) laid out a rough scenario for Philly property owners.

“As much as a 20% increase in their overall real estate tax bill," predicted Jimenez.

FOX 29's Bruce Gordon caught up with mayor Jim Kenney to ask about that possibility Tuesday, but the mayor was not ready to commit.

"I’m not prepared to say that now.  We'll work with our funding partners in Harrisburg and locally to find a way to get it done."

If the funding gap cannot be filled, the SRC’s Green predicts massive teacher pay-offs, to begin as soon as fifteen months from now.

"The contract itself is irresponsible,” said Green.  “It is not paid for and there is no commitment to pay for it."

 

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