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Controversy, Confusion Accompany City Property Tax Overhaul

(File Photo Courtesy of Tony Hanson)

(File Photo Courtesy of Tony Hanson)

Mike Dunn Mike Dunn
Mike Dunn is City Hall bureau chief for KYW Newsradio 1060. He covers...
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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Confusion reigns at Philadelphia City Hall as council and the Nutter Administration grapple over the already overdue budget as well as how to fix the property tax system. 

Several council members are now voicing frustration that the Nutter Administration’s estimates on the total value of all properties in the city were suddenly revised downward.  Among them is Brian O’Neill of the 10th District.

“The total valuation of all the properties under the new full value (system) we were told was going to be, first, was $120 billion, then it slipped to $110 billion.  (Now) they’re talking that it’s maybe as low as $80 billion.  That kind of changes the whole game in terms of what the mileage will be,” O’Neill said

Council President Darrell Clarke wants to see documentation on that shift.

“I have not gotten anything in writing from the administration,” Clarke said. “I would like to see that in writing, because it obviously impacts what we do here.”

It impacts what Council will do because the Mayor wants approval of a new system dubbed the Actual Value Initiative involving reassessments of all properties in the city.  Nutter wants Council to set a tax rate that would bring in an additional 94-million dollars for the school district.

The Mayor’s Finance Director, Rob Dubow, says the administration never used the higher numbers.

“I don’t think we ever gave an estimate for total assessments,” Dubow said.

Dubow also says the new $80-billion figure comes from council’s own consultant, though he says the Administration finds it is a reasonable estimate.

This confusion over the basic numbers comes as council attempts to craft a budget package by Thursday morning.  On Tuesday, council members agreed to include a plan to protect longtime homeowners who live in gentrified neighborhoods.  But Brian O’Neill and others wonder whether it will be possible to reach a deal even by Thursday.

“Oh, I don’t think there’s going to be a resolution by Thursday morning,” O’Neill said

The charter-mandated deadline of June first for budget passage has already been passed.  The more difficult deadline comes on July first, when the current budget expires.  Missing that deadline could force a partial shutdown of city government.

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