By Mike Dunn
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -Philadelphia City Council has reversed course and voted to delay by one year the mayor’s controversial property tax overhaul.
The lawmakers also have decided to slash the amount of new money earmarked for the school district.
The mayor had wanted $94 million extra for the schools, to be raised by switching to the new property tax system known as the Actual Value Initiative, or AVI. Council, one week ago, had agreed to push ahead with AVI and put the school bailout at $85 million.
But that deal crumbled over the past week, and by late Thursday Council did an abrupt about-face and voted to delay AVI by one year. The reason: the new assessments are not complete and council members found it difficult to set a new tax rate until they are.
Tenth District Councilman Brian O’Neill said waiting was prudent, so people would know what to expect:
“I think people are just taxed out. Its just not the right time to be propping a sizable tax increase on them.”
Councilwoman Marion Tasco agreed:
“We need to take our time and do this right. The system has been broken for years and years and years. And we have a responsibility to straighten it out.”
Council also slashed the extra cash for the schools from the mayor’s requested $94 million down to $40 million. Councilwoman Cindy Bass—who supported the full amount—was disappointed:
“It’s a band aid for now. But we need much more than bandaids to make sure that our kids get the quality of education they deserve.”
Councilwoman Maria Quniones Sanchez lamented that the Nutter Administration linked the school funding to the AVI debate:
“When you complicate additional funding with a reform initiative, as we’ve done this year, its complicated.”
The mayor was returning to Florida for the U-S Conference of Mayors as the vote occurred, and was not available for comment.
His Finance Director, Rob Dubow, said the administration hopes that before final votes come next week, council changes course:
“We are concerned that the number for the (school) district keeps going down. We are concerned that people would have to wait another year to get fair, accurate and understandable assessments.”