"It's going to be a few months until we bring this bill to a hearing," said Stokes. "I'm not going to do anything in a vacuum."

Stokes, an outspoken opponent of tax breaks for big development projects, said he wants to look at all revenue measures at the same time. The councilman, who helped found an East Baltimore charter school, grudgingly voted for the 2-cent measure in 2010.

But Reisinger, who as the mayor's floor leader champions her agenda, wants the measure to be brought to the full council quickly. "I feel strongly the eight votes are there" to pass the measure, he said.

Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young could push Stokes to move the bill more quickly, but it is unclear whether Young will act — or whether he will weigh in on the bill at all.

Young abstained from voting on the tax in 2010, citing a conflict of interest because a cousin worked for a beverage distributor and had lobbied against the bill.

The city ethics board later determined that Young was free to vote on the tax — although not obligated to — because a cousin is not considered a close enough relation to present a conflict of interest, said Geremy Bass, a spokesman for the council president.

Young has not decided whether or how he would vote on the tax, Bass said.

Education advocates say Rawlings-Blake's plan is a key first step in funding school repairs, but they note that much more money is needed. "This is a significant dent in a much greater need," Verdery said. "It would be key to us that we don't stop there."

Verdery said Rawlings-Blake expressed interest in a funding strategy used by Greenville, S.C., officials to pay for a major school construction program there. Under that model, the city and school system would need to partner with or form a nonprofit that could float a much larger amount of bonds.

The coalition is also seeking Rawlings-Blake's guarantee that the bottle tax proceeds would be dedicated to school construction in perpetuity, Verdery said.

O'Doherty, the mayor's spokesman, confirmed that the administration is studying the South Carolina model, but said the first step is approving the tax increase.

"We need to get the funds in place now, so that when the revenues start coming in, we'll have the best plan to leverage them," he said.

julie.scharper@baltsun.com

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