By Mike Dunn
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Mayor Nutter today presented his plan to hike city property taxes by more than nine percent, to give the school district an extra $100 million.
But that idea promptly fell flat among City Council members.
Nutter delivered his final budget to City Council by asking the lawmakers to hike property taxes 9.3 percent. This, he said, would raise $105 million to support schools superintendent William Hite’s new action plan.
“Our proposal, together with Governor Wolf’s new measures announced on Tuesday, will eliminate the district’s deficit and provide for investment in this new model to improve educational outcomes for every Philadelphia student,” the mayor said.
And Nutter acknowledged another property tax hike will be unpopular.
“Let me say, very clearly, I don’t want to raise you taxes, but I do want to educate our children. I don’t want the next generation of Philadelphians living under the burdens of poverty and violence,” Nutter said.
But many councilmembers were immediately cool to Nutter’s property tax hike. And they vowed that City Council would come up with their own ideas to meet the school district’s request.
Majority leader Curtis Jones said alternatives need to be explored.
“Every year we hear there are no other options, and every year we find ways to get it done,” Jones tells KYW Newsradio. “We are going to look at other ways to do it, because quite honestly, after AVI (the city’s “Actual Value Initiative”), after several other tax increases, some of my members will find it hard to sell in their districts.”
Still, Jones refused to describe Nutter’s plan to hike property taxes as DOA.
“It’s a heavy lift in an election year, but not impossible,” Jones said.
Fellow councilman Wilson Goode also vowed to look at alternative ways to raise the cash needed by the schools.
“I do expect that we will come up with other ideas,” said Goode. “I believe the discussion has just begun, but that it should not begin an end with trying to put the burden on homeowners.”
Specifically, Goode says he would prefer that the state allow the city to tax commercial property owners at a different rate than residential owners.
“I think we should shift some of that burden to commercial properties. And that’s my long-term vision in terms of how we should fund schools,” Goode said.
The school district wants $103 million from the city and $206 million from the state. But Brian O’Neill, the Republican leader on City Council, said it’s time the district stop seeking help additional from the city.
“This is something we shouldn’t even be considering. The state should be paying a lot more than 206 (million) after giving us nothing for three years,” O’Neill told KYW Newsradio.
Council will debate the mayor’s spending plan — including the property tax hike — over the next few months.
Other notable items in Mayor Nutter’s proposed budget:
- an increase of $5.5 million for improvements at the Department of Licenses & Inspections, including new staffers;
- $3.6 million allocated to the police department for a rollout of officer body cameras, as well as new ballistic vests and tasers;
- an extra $4 million for the Department of Parks and Recreation, to expand the summer jobs program for teens;
- an additional $3.4 million to Community College of Philadelphia, to help the school avoid a tuition increase, and for capital spending;
- $3 million for new city vehicles and $2 million for new computers; and
- an increase of about $30 million for the city government’s capital needs, including a 20-percent increase in funding for street paving in neighborhoods.
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