By Mike Dunn
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The leaders of Philadelphia City Council are denying that the reason they pushed back their annual budget hearing schedule was to avoid a debate on raising property taxes until after the May 19th primary.
Last year, City Council wrapped up its budget hearing schedule by the end of April.
This year, the schedule goes through the end of June and the specific question of whether to raise property taxes nearly 10% won’t be heard until May 21st, two days after the primary.
Council President Darrell Clarke rejects the notion that this delayed schedule helps lawmakers avoid a hot potato until after the primary: “This issue with respects to timing on the budget is basically a red herring, and is probably a part of somebody’s political agenda,” says Clarke. “This notion that somehow the timing relates to an election is an attempt for somebody to politicize a process that happens on an annual basis.”
All sixteen council members are seeking re-election except for Marian Tasco, who is retiring.
Mayor Nutter proposes a 9.3% property tax hike to raise an extra $105 million for the school district.
This puts council members in the difficult spot of choosing between better school funding and helping out residential property owners, who have seen their tax bills go up in recent years.
Curtis Jones, the Democratic Majority Leader, says delaying the debate allows council members more time.
“I think voters would be better off having the right decision made, and us thinking about it two or three times before we act. Act in haste, and you will repent in your leisure.”
And Jones minces no words about critics of Council’s schedule.
“Its easy to back seat drive, when you have no clue about what it takes to make a budget.”
Councilman Bill Greenlee, the Democratic Whip, says council needs this extra time to see what Harrisburg is doing with regard to school funding: “Even though it might not be finished in Harrisburg by the time we have to be finished, I think it will be closer. So I think making decisions later makes sense.”
The School District requested $103 million from the city, above the current funding level, and an additional $206 million from the state.