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Controversial, Contentious Budget Was Hallmark of Phila. Council’s Legislative Season

(City Council president Darrell Clarke, in Council chambers.  File photo by Steve Tawa)

(City Council president Darrell Clarke, in Council chambers. File photo by Steve Tawa)

Mike Dunn Mike Dunn
Mike Dunn is City Hall bureau chief for KYW Newsradio 1060. He covers...
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By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A long and difficult Philadelphia budget battle comes to a close today with City Council’s final passage of its new taxation and spending plan, even as the Council president says the new property assessment system dubbed “AVI” is still a work in progress.

After months of debate, Council President Darrell Clarke says he’s proud of the final version of the Actual Value Initiative that Council has approved.

“I absolutely am,” Clarke said Thursday. “I think that the relief measures in place — homestead (exemption), means-based gentrification, some deferral bills — will put us in a position where individuals who genuinely can’t pay their tax bill will be able to get some relief.”

The homestead exemption was set by Council at $30,000 for residential property owners. The means-based gentrification is still contingent on approval by the state legislature.

Council set the property tax rate at 1.34 percent. But Clarke says tweaking AVI will continue when Council returns from its summer recess.

“We are at the end in terms of actually implementing the legislation that puts AVI in place,” Clarke tells KYW Newsradio, “but there are some things that need to be corrected.”

One change, he says, involves setting the standards used by the Office of Property Assessment, which devises the property values:

“We want to make sure that those standards are clear and transparent. We want to make sure those standards make sense to the average citizen. We want to put in place certain measures to correct some of the assessments that are somewhat out of whack. So we will continue to work with AVI to get it to the place it needs to be, so everyone can feel comfortable with the implementation.”

And all of that, Clarke says, could take another one or two years.

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