Philadelphia Facing Money Worries on Pact

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Despite a rare united plea from Superintendent of Schools Constance E. Clayton and Mayor W. Wilson Goode, the Philadelphia City Council last week approved a tax package that falls short of the amount needed to fund the district's new contract with its teachers' union.

But school officials pledged to honor the terms of the pact nonetheless, and to seek reductions elsewhere.

Philadelphia is the only school district in the state that is unable to raise revenue on its own.

The four-year contract, formally approved last week by the board of education, calls for a 19 percent increase in teacher salaries over the life of the agreement and other improvements that are expected to cost an additional $471 million through fiscal 1993.

The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers had ratified the contract in April.

To finance the pact, Ms. Clayton had proposed a package of management savings and program deferrals. And, together with Mayor Goode, she proposed a $165-million hike in city taxes for fiscal 1989, including a new tax on liquor by the drink and a property-tax revision, that was expected to yield an additional $325 million for the district over the next five years.

But the council--facing protesters carrying signs that read "Axe the Tax'' and "Just Say 'No'''--rejected several of the Goode-Clayton proposals. Instead, councilors agreed to a budget that included $100 million in additional revenues, which would provide about half of what district officials said they would need.

Members of the school board, meeting the same day, voted unanimously to endorse the contract despite the council's action. Board members noted that by the end of the contract's term, the district will have gone 10 years without a strike; the teachers' union struck six times between 1970 and 1982.

Ms. Clayton said the new budget would force the district to make additional cuts in programs. She proposed a total of $200 million over five years in deferrals and savings, including a freeze on most new hiring and a delay in the proposed expansion of full-day kindergarten programs.

But she vowed that the reductions would not affect the provisions of the new contract, which was the first since the board began collective bargaining with the teachers' union to be adopted substantially before the old contract expired.

"We negotiated that contract in good faith,'' said William Thompson, a spokesman for Ms. Clayton. "It is fair, and we would not consider reneging on that commitment.''

Mr. Thompson added that the district would seek additional funds from the state and federal governments, and would return to the city council to ask for additional revenues in the future.--R.R.

Vol. 07, Issue 37

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