The Brief: We’ll Soon Know the Names of All Cops Who Shoot Civilians

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey. AP | Matt Rourke

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey. AP | Matt Rourke

1. The police department is going to start releasing the names of officers who fire at civilians.

The gistCity Paper reports that Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey announced in a memo yesterday that “the department will immediately begin disclosing the names of officers who discharge their firearms in Officer-Involved Shootings ‘within seventy-two (72) hours of the incident.'” According to the memo, this was one of the recommendations made by the U.S. Department of Justice in its scathing report on police shootings in Philadelphia. Also, the department will examine each case to ensure that “no threats are made toward the officer or members of their family prior to the release of this information.” Read more »

Philly’s Tax Lien Sale Sucked*

Investment desperately needed. | Photo by Jukie Bot on Flickr, Creative Commons License.

Photo by Jukie Bot on Flickr, Creative Commons License.

Philadelphia’s first tax lien sale under Mayor Michael Nutter was a flop. But it was also kind of amazing.

I’ll explain, but first, a quick primer on this complex but important problem. Tax liens are legal claims the city slaps on properties when the owners of those properties fail to pay their taxes. Liens give the city the right to auction off tax-delinquent properties and use the profits to cover the taxes that are owed. Property tax delinquency is an epidemic in Philadelphia. About 100,000 properties are in arrears — which is one of the highest rates in the nation — and they owe a total of about $500 million in unpaid taxes and penalties to the city and cash-strapped School District of Philadelphia. As large as that $500 million figure is, the bigger problem with property tax delinquency is probably the blight generated by past-due parcels, which are often vacant and owned by speculators, not homeowners.

The city has struggled mightily to curb rampant tax delinquency. The lien sale was an experimental attempt at a new strategy: selling the liens to private investors, who would then have the same authority the city has to collect penalties and interest from delinquent property owners, and even to begin foreclosure proceedings on delinquent properties. Lien sales are, at root, an outsourcing of delinquency enforcement.

Over the last few days, the city tried to auction off 865 liens online. The sale ended Monday, and the results sucked. Philly sold only sold 28 percent of the liens for a total of $2.1 million, according to data from the city’s revenue department.

Read more »

5 Questions About the Future of Philly’s Schools

Students have a modest request of City Council. | Photo  courtesy of Philadelphia City Council. Produced and Edited by Michael Falconi and Jenae Brown.

Earlier this year, students made a modest request of City Council. | Photo Credit: City Council’s Flickr

Philadelphia City Council did something Thursday that it’s done a lot in recent years: voted to increase both taxes and education funding. Lawmakers expect to raise an extra $70 million for the city’s schools by hiking the property, parking and use-and-occupancy levies.

So, where does that leave the school district? Somewhat better off than it was before, no doubt. But it’s not out of the woods yet, either. Its future depends on the answers to these five big questions, which we should learn in the coming weeks: Read more »

Surprise! Philly’s Commercial Property Taxes Are Pretty Damn Low

Photo by James Losey, Creative Commons License

Photo by James Losey, Creative Commons License

Study after study and politician after politician have said that Philadelphia’s taxes are way too high. But a new report by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy and the Minnesota Center for Fiscal Excellence shows that there is at least one exception to that rule.

It found that Philly has among the lowest taxes in the country for small-scale commercial and industrial properties.

Read more »

PSA: Mayor Nutter’s Property Tax Hike Would Only Cost You a Cheesesteak a Month


Say, can you spare a cheesesteak?

A new ad from the city government says that Mayor Michael Nutter’s plan to raise property taxes by 9 percent would cost the typical homeowner an extra $104 annually. Need that translated into your favorite stereotypical Philly food? The ad (below) does just that: $104 is the price of “a cheesesteak once a month” or “4 soft pretzels a week.” Read more »

Darrell Clarke: Fund Philly Schools By Cracking Down on Tax Deadbeats

Photo Credit: City Council's Flickr

Photo Credit: City Council’s Flickr

A Philadelphia lawmaker has a plan to fund the city’s schools and crack down on tax deadbeats at the same time.

City Council President Darrell Clarke introduced a bill Thursday that would expand the local government’s ability to sell liens on commercial properties.

He says it could raise “millions of dollars” annually for Philadelphia’s schools. He did not provide a more specific figure.

Read more »

City Council Won’t Debate Property Tax Hike Until After the Election

Philadelphia City Council  | Photo Credit: City Council's Flickr page

Philadelphia City Council | Photo Credit: City Council’s Flickr page

The Philadelphia City Council must decide in the next few months whether to support Mayor Michael Nutter’s plan to raise property taxes by more than 9 percent to fund the cash-strapped schools.

That’s not an easy choice for legislators to make during an election year.

Lucky for them, that debate won’t take place until after the May 19th primary, in which 15 of 16 Council members are up for reelection. That’s because Council has scheduled its hearing on education funding for May 26th.

Read more »

44 Taxes We Pay as Residents of the Great City of Philadelphia

Governor Wolf introduced his budget on Tuesday. And in it he proposed an increase in spending, no pension reform, no long-term deficit reduction and no cuts in costs. And although he’s lowering business and real estate taxes, there are proposed increases in our state income and sales tax. Mayor Nutter introduced his budget yesterday. And he wants a 9 percent property tax increase (oh, and good luck with that). Now the mayoral candidates are talking about a plastic bag tax.

And why not? We Philadelphians are used to taxes. It’s no big deal.

In fact, depending on whether you live and/or work and/or run a business in the city, you might be paying as many as 44 different taxes, fees and tariffs every single year — maybe more! Don’t remember them all? Who could blame you! So here’s a list to refresh your memory. And please let me know if I’m leaving anything out. I’m definitely forgetting something, right? Read more »

Councilman Jones: Nutter’s Property Tax Hike Proposal a “Heavy Lift”

Councilman Curtis Jones. Photo | City Council Flickr

Councilman Curtis Jones Jr.; Photo | City Council Flickr

Before Mayor Michael Nutter even gave his final budget address Thursday, there were signs his plan to raise property taxes was on life support.

Nutter is going to propose this morning a 9.3 percent increase in the property tax rate to provide an infusion of cash to the city’s financially troubled schools. The Philadelphia School District is facing an $80 million budget deficit in 2015-16, and has asked the city for an extra $103 million.

Read more »

Morning Headlines: Will Council Go For Nutter’s Proposed Property Tax Hike?

Photo credit: Julia Rowe via Flickr.

Photo credit: Julia Rowe via Flickr.

Mayor Michael Nutter will present his final budget address for fiscal year 2016-17 today at 10 a.m. Early reports indicate that Nutter will look to increase the property tax rate from 1.340 percent of assessed value to 1.465 percent, or a hike of over 9%, according to The Inquirer. The money raised by the increase would help fund the School District of Philadelphia. While other budgetary items include  $5.5 million to beef up L+I, $5 million in neighborhood improvements (fixing the curbs, sidewalks, lighting, etc.) and a whopping $20 million to pave the streets (because, winter), all anyone seems to be talking about is the increase in property taxes.  Read more »

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