Only in Philadelphia could the public school system get away with making community athletic groups pay what essentially is an extra tax to play games in public school gymnasiums after school hours. Or can it? The School District of Philadelphia’s plan to impose user fees at nights and on weekends is not a done deal. With three consecutive years of property-tax hikes and a not-so-temporary hike in the sales tax, Northeast Philly parents, already taxed up the wazoo, must say “NO!” Much of the blame for the school district’s poor fiscal condition lies squarely in the laps of past members of the School Reform Commission, which a year ago inexplicably gave $905,000 to inept ousted Superintendent Arlene Ackerman to buy out her contract. That $905,000 could have paid for many hours of after-hours play time at school gyms throughout the city. City Controller Alan Butkovitz, who has the statutory power to withhold questionable or otherwise improper city payments, should have tried to block the Ackerman fiscal fiasco. City taxpayers should tell Mr. Butkovitz, who is likely to seek re-election next year, to join City Council members in instructing the school district — and if necessary, the city recreation department and the entire city government — to forget about charging taxpayers to use public facilities already financed by their (public) tax dollars.Philadelphia residents and merchants must also demand the city crack down on tax cheats and finally collect the $515 million owed to the city and school district. If it does that, there will be plenty of money to keep school gymnasiums open for kids who just want to play ball.There was good news on Tuesday when Mayor Nutter granted a partial reprieve for the clubs as he announced that the city would pay $338,000 in gym fees. The money will fund court time at 25 gyms until 8:30 on weeknights and all day on Saturdays for five months starting Dec. 5. Here’s the bad news: The athletic groups will still have to pay-out-of-pocket if they want to use any of the other 80 school gyms after 7:30 on weeknights or on Saturdays.Send letters to the editor to: email@example.com
Councilman: School gym issue will be fixedThis is in response to Bill Rubin’s letter in last week’s edition: One of my highest priorities has always been the youth organizations in my district. Upon learning about the School District’s plan to charge volunteer youth organizations for the use of school gyms, I immediately began fielding calls and meeting with athletic directors, coaches and parents.I am working with my Council colleagues to come up with a solution, as we have done in the past. I will never tolerate any youth organization paying to use city facilities.I do appreciate Mr. Rubin reminding my constituents that I have never voted for a property tax increase, including the last three consecutive years.I am optimistic that this school gym funding issue will again be resolved, hopefully for the last time.Brian O’NeillCouncilman, 10th DistrictEditor’s note: Mayor Nutter and the school district on Tuesday announced an agreement to maintain programs at school gymnasiums while altering schedules or locations to save costs.
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— Three-term Democrat Stack touts his independence. Republican Tomlinson says it's time for a change.