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Philly City Council wants to look into how PPA manages its funds
Philly City Council wants to look into how PPA manages its funds. Photo: Jared Piper/PHL Council

Philly City Council wants to look into how PPA manages its funds

The Parking Authority has long faced the ire of City Council and the School District of Philadelphia over its funding.

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City Councilmember Helen Gym is calling for hearings to examine the Philadelphia Parking Authority (PPA) over an $11.3 million debt it placed on the cash-strapped School District last fall.

Each year, the agency cuts both the city and the School District a piece of its on-street parking revenue, as part of a 2004 profit-sharing agreement.

But for the first time, PPA claims it overpaid the district by a lot, and asked the district to pay back an amount that advocates say adds up to the annual salaries for more than 100 teachers. 

On Thursday, Feb. 17, Gym introduced a resolution, calling the agency’s request “unorthodox” and a sign of larger financial mismanagement issues.

PPA promised $45 million a year to schools, according to Gym, but has not delivered even a fraction of that amount.

“[PPA] is a critical public trust. It has the responsibility of not only doing the good work of managing our streets and parking, but it also has the important responsibility of funding our city and funding our school kids,” Gym told City Council. 

The disputed amount is a small fraction of the district’s $3 billion annual operating budget, but it amounts to more than a fifth of the $53 million that PPA has paid to the district since 2015. 

Gym and other public education advocates have been urging the authority to cancel the debt since December.

"It's time we push for real oversight of the PPA and for transparency around where their money is going," Councilmember Kendra Brooks said in a press release on Feb. 17. 

Gym wants to investigate a $34 million fund that the agency established to pay retiree health benefits. Gym had learned about it in emails between PPA and the School District. 

"This had never been disclosed before publicly to the district or to the city. It was never made clear in financial audits delivered to our body," said Gym.

According to Gym’s resolution, City Council called for hearings with PPA to address school funding in 2018, but the entity did not attend.

"The Parking Authority should operate as a public trust — but they surrendered what little integrity they had the moment they asked schoolchildren to cough up $11 million for no documented reason," Gym said in a statement. 

With the resolution passed, Gym’s office is looking to schedule the first hearing sometime this Spring.

"Let me make this clear: Not only will we make sure not a single cent rightfully owed to our students goes back to the PPA, we are calling for direct oversight of the PPA's budget to end the financial mess they are putting upon our schools and our city," Gym said.

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