By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Mayor Nutter’s budget experts were in the hot seat today as Philadelphia City Council opened hearings on Nutter’s plan to revamp the way property assessments are calculated in the city.

One of the issues facing Council is that the new citywide reassessments are not yet complete.  And Rob Dubow, the mayor’s finance director, admitted not knowing with certainty the total of property taxes that would come in under the new system.

The mayor’s target is around $500 million to the city and more than that to the school district, but Councilman Bill Green said it could end up at least double that.

(Green:)  “That is, a billion to a billion-four, compared to 491 million dollars.”
(Dubow:)  “Again, we don’t know where its going to come out.  It could be more than that, it could be less than that.”

Councilman-at-large Jim Kenney wanted to know what to tell residents who fear a doubling of property taxes as the mayor’s plan is put into place:

“These are folks who aren’t needy when it comes to city services, and are paying $4,000 now and could potentially be paying $8,000 next year.  How do I keep them living here?” Kenney asked.  “Why would they want to live here?”

“We want to put smoothing and a homestead exemption in place to help with that sticker shock,” Dubow replied.

Dubow said the mayor will phase in any increases over three years, and hopes for state approval of homestead exemptions to ease any property tax hit to homeowners.

Kenney called for an outright cap on “what we’re going to whack people with.”