PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney has asked City Council to raise property taxes by 6 percent, in order to fund public schools. That was the boldest proposal in the $4.7 billion budget he presented on Thursday.
The mayor acknowledges that the tax increase – which he said would add $95 annually to the average home worth $113,000 – would be a sacrifice.
“But the alternative is far worse. It would return our students to overcrowded classrooms lacking in resources in schools without nurses and counselors. It would set us back, just when we are poised to finally move forward,” said Kenney.
But Councilman Allan Domb, who is also a realtor, thinks a six percent increase is simply too high.
“I’m in favor or a 2-3 percent increase in property tax. I think people can handle that,” said Domb
Other council members say businesses should also help fund schools since Kenney’s proposal does not increase the use and occupancy tax.
“They were held harmless in this and I would like to see more distributed burden. All of the revenue burden is falling on residents and that’s something I can’t support outright,” said Councilwoman Maria D. Quiñones-Sánchez.
The changes could bring some $980 million to the district over the next five years which would help fill a nearly $1 billion school district funding deficit.
“I think it’s, in theory, a good idea,” said Dan Evrard, who bought his home in Queen Village in 2012.
As a public school graduate and new father, he says he wants the Philadelphia School District to succeed.
“If we could keep her in public schools and not send her to private schools, it’s worth it,” said Evrard.
But as a homeowner, he’s torn by the proposed increase which would add hundreds to his yearly tax bill.
So he’s waiting to hear exactly how the money from the increase will be spent before he decides whether or not to support the plan.
“If the money isn’t well spent, then it’s all just for nothing,” Evrard says.
The rewards, Kenney said, would be far-reaching in schools and in the larger economy, bolstered by a better workforce and residents choosing to stay even after their children reach school age.
Though he later cautioned those results would take years.
“I’ll probably be long gone, buried and dead before we see the results of this effort,” he said.
The mayor also proposes an increase in the realty transfer tax and a slow down in the wage tax reduction.