What becomes of shuttered schools?
As Philadelphia school
officials consider closing 37 more school buildings, our latest report examines what
becomes of properties after they are shuttered. The report looks at the experience of Philadelphia and 11 other urban districts. We find that it is
far from easy to bring new lives to former schools. The buildings tend to be
large, decaying structures in residential neighborhoods often suffering from depopulation and decline. These buildings are hard to market, but if left standing
vacant they can become sources of blight, vandalism or worse. When they are sold or leased, the most frequent new uses are charter schools and other educational purposes, nonprofit/governmental facilities, and housing. Even though charters are well-positioned to buy and make use of empty schools, these purchases can also accelerate the decline in
student enrollment that leads to school closings in the first place. (Read our earlier report on the school-closing process.)
Successful transactions often rely on tax-advantaged financing and realistic
expectations about the value of the buildings. These and other factors are important to keep in mind during a process often fraught with emotion and disruption, documented in our short video about two Philadelphia schools that were recently closed:
AVI and nonprofits
Courtesy McGraw Hill Construction
This week the Nutter administration says it will be mailing reassessments to owners of 579,000 city properties, as part of its Actual Value Initiative (AVI) to reform the property tax system. (See also our recent report on AVI). While residential and commercial properties have been the focus of attention, nonprofit organizations with property may also be affected. Philadelphia Finance Director Rob Dubow told a group of Democratic state legislators earlier this month that those tax-exempt properties, which until now were estimated at 31 percent of the city's total property value, now will constitute between 25 percent and 28 percent after AVI. He also said the city has been "auditing" nonprofits and cited a 2012 Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling affirming a locality's right to challenge an entity's exemption from local taxes. Reaction to the ruling has included proposals to require more local taxes from nonprofit organizations, including payments in lieu of taxes, known as PILOTs, which in turn has caused concern among nonprofits. One new bill in Philadelphia would let officials go after some nonprofits. Just where all this will lead for Philadelphia nonprofits is unclear.
Philadelphia lags the patent boom
A report by the Brookings Institution puts some new perspective on the Philadelphia region as a place for inventors and patent holders. Once an industrial powerhouse, the region since 1980 has lagged the national trend in the number of new patent applications. By 2011, the region was ranked 12th out of 358 regions studied by Brookings with 2,307 applications by companies and individuals that year. It was 77th out of 358 in its ratio of patents to workers. According to Brookings, patenting has increased in this region since the end of the recession but not nearly as much as elsewhere.
Next phase in workforce development
Philadelphia Works Inc., the quasi-public agency responsible for millions of dollars in workforce-development funds, says it will reach out to a "broader array of stakeholders," such as business leaders and service providers to review its reorganization plans. The stakeholder meetings will run through April 2013. They are part of the restructuring process launched in 2012 after years of below-average results in connecting jobseekers with employers, as documented in our 2012 report. Among the changes, PWI has outsourced operations and focused more attention on employers, not just jobseekers. PWI's latest board report indicates that its record is still mixed. But so is the regional economy. The Federal Reserve
Bank of Philadelphia says business recovery in the region has been modest. The state's fiscal watchdog PICA and the city controller
say that slightly-rising tax collections may indicate "modest earnings growth" for
residents. The Milken Institute's latest 200 Best-Performing Cities List
shows Philadelphia dropping from 49th to 90th place, although others dropped far more, enabling Philly to escape Milken's "Biggest
The Actual Value Initiative: Our 2012 study found that no other city in recent years has made such significant changes to its property tax system all at one time, and in the absence of state mandates or court orders.
Overhauling Property Taxes in Philadelphia: Our study, released in November, looked at Philadelphia's plan for property tax reform in the context of what other cities and states have done, and found that Philadelphia lacks some of the elements used elsewhere.
Philadelphia 2013: The State of the City: We've begun working on our bi-annual State of the City report to be released in March 2013. Printed copies will be available, free of charge. To request one, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with your name and postal address.
|Upcoming Public Events
Feb. 14: City Board of Health meeting. More info.
Feb. 19: Planning Commission monthly meeting. More info.
Feb. 19: Board meeting of Pennsylvania Inter-governmental Cooperation Authority (PICA). More info.
Feb. 19: Board meeting of Philadelphia Regional Port Authority. More info.
Feb 20: Philadelphia Board of Ethics meeting. More info.
Feb. 20: Penn Center for Architecture discussion about the Divine Lorraine. More info.
Feb. 21-23: School Reform Commission hearings on school closings. More info.
Feb. 21: Ed Bacon Award Ceremony. More info.
Feb. 21: Academy of Natural Sciences at Drexel panel on hurricane preparedness for Philadelphia. More info.
Feb. 21: School Reform Commission monthly action meeting.More info.
Feb. 22: Monthly board meeting of Philadelphia Housing Authority. More info.
Feb. 27: ULI discussion: City or Suburbs? More info.
Feb. 27: Parks and Recreation Commission public hearing. More info.
Feb. 28: Planning Commission special meeting. More info.
Mar. 6: Board meeting of Philadelphia Regional Port Authority. More info.
Mar. 6: Board meeting of Delaware River Port Authority. More info.
Mar. 7: School Reform Commission votes on school-closing plan. More info.
Mar. 18: School Reform Commission monthly policy-strategy meeting. More info.
Mar. 20: Quarterly meeting of Philadelphia Works Inc. board. More info.
|Our Most-Read Reports
Shuttered Public Schools: The Struggle to Bring Old Buildings New Life. Read
The Actual Value Initiative: Overhauling Property Taxes in Philadelphia. Read.
Philadelphia: State of the City 2012 and 2011.
The Pew Charitable Trusts is a nonprofit
organization that applies a rigorous, analytical approach to improve public
policy, inform the public and stimulate civic life. Pew’s Philadelphia research
initiative provides timely, impartial research and analysis on key issues
facing Philadelphia for the benefit of the city’s citizens and leaders.
We produce nonpartisan reports and conduct scientific opinion polls on key issues. Check our online library for primary research documents and previous newsletters.