By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A Philadelphia city councilmember wants Council to do an about-face and restore the salaries of members of the Board of Revision of Taxes — the folks who are now hearing thousands of property assessment appeals.

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It was back in 2010 that Mayor Nutter convinced City Council to slash the pay of the five-member BRT board, with whom he was then battling.  A state court later ruled the pay cuts unconstitutional because they came in the middle of board members’ terms.

Now, Councilman Mark Squilla has introduced a bill to revert back to the original salaries before 2010 of about $70,000 a year.

“We need the BRT right now,” Squilla says.  “We need them to have these hearings.  We need them to make sure they’re fair and as soon as possible.  We don’t need to have to wonder about hearings held over until next year and the following year, because we have budgets to do.  And this would be the best way to do it.”

Squilla insists that this measure is not meant as a political jab at Mayor Nutter, who originally tried to eliminate the board entirely.

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“I don’t think it’s getting back at the mayor.  What we believe now is that we made a mistake in the beginning, and we have a court ruling that said it was unconstitutional.  So we’re just fixing a mistake that we made,” Squilla says.

A spokesman for the mayor withheld immediate comment, saying the administration will speak to Squilla’s proposal “if and when this matter comes up for a hearing.”

The BRT is currently hearing appeals based on the city’s new assessment system, the “Actual Value Initiative.”  The 2010 law cut BRT members salaries down to $150 per diem, except for the chairman and secretary, who are paid $50,000 and $45,000 annually, respectively.

Ironically, the court ruling that the earlier bill was unconstitutional may mean that Squilla’s measure raising salaries could not take effect for board members mid-term.

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