Lately, if you live near Philly you have been seeing ads about the Philly Beverage Tax. It made me curious because it looked like free publicity for incumbents. I felt like I needed to do research especially after a comment on twitter about the beverage tax was misconstrued and miscommunicated and a woman tried to argue with me that the beverage tax is essential to pre-K.
As a former educator, I understand the importance and value of pre-K programs. But I am suspicious that we are not being told the truth about this tax so here’s what I found out.
- There is a narrative around the beverage tax. On one side, we are told this tax helps fund pre-K and will help to reduce obesity and the cost will not negatively affect low-income individuals. Then on the other hand, we are told that it is hurting businesses, especially small businesses, and low income families. Mayor James Kenney continues to state that tax was proposed “to fund the City of Philadelphia’s Pre-K expansion and Community Schools program, as well as to pay the debt service for the bond borrowing for Rebuild”. This is what you see all over the news and social media. So our city is divide over a narrative that appears to be factually untrue.
- The fact is that more than half of the tax is currently going to the city’s fund balance rather than pre-K and community schools or parks. We are being told that so many children are able to attend pre-K because of this tax but I am tired of being lied to. The Controller’s office has produced a report shows that the tax has generated $137 million and only $37 million has gone to pre-K and $31 million of that has gone to contracts and leases. This means somewhere in the remaining 6 million, we are actually paying the cost of some children to attend pre-K for free. Further not every community in Philly is even benefiting from this tax and it appears that it is not even concentrated in the low-income neighborhoods of Philadelphia.
I could talk about the other side of the argument but I think it is irrelevant if the purported purpose is false. It seems that this tax was created to increase the city’s fund balance. I have a love affair with truth and I hate being lied to. So, my question is why are our elected officials lying to us and why is our fund balance so low?