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.
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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 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.
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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 »
Photo | Dan McQuade
Chris Christie took a controversial step today that has some Atlantic City politicians fuming. At his third summit on the city’s future, Christie announced the appointment of Kevin Lavin and Kevyn Orr as emergency managers in Atlantic City. Lavin, the emergency manager, and Orr, his special counsel, will have broad powers in A.C.
Lavin, who most recently worked at FTI Consulting, has years of experience in corporate restructuring. Kevyn Orr was Detroit’s emergency manager during its bankruptcy proceedings.
Detroit emerged from bankruptcy in December, shedding $7 billion of its $18 billion in debt. There are not any immediate plans to push Atlantic City into bankruptcy, though it is assumed they are on the table.
“I don’t think the residents will be very happy,” Chris Filiciello, a spokesman for Atlantic City mayor Don Guardian, told the Wall Street Journal. “They elected the mayor to represent them. He has been fulfilling his duties to the best of his ability and we’d like to know what an emergency manager would do that the mayor hasn’t done already.”
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Next time you hear someone complaining about a property tax hike, point them to Narberth. The Main Line Times’ Cheryl Allison reports the Montgomery County Borough has—for the fifth year in a row—kept its no-tax increase rate.
A 6-0 vote by Borough Council in late December ended in favor of keeping the 8.777 mills real estate tax rate, which Allison says it’s had since 2011.
For a moment there, though, it didn’t seem like it would happen. In November, borough manager Bill Martin estimated that a “tax rate increase of .399 mills, to 9.194 mills” might be needed.
According to Allison, avoiding the rate hike was made possible thanks to an interest rate on a short-term loan that was going to cover removal costs of the former Rockland Avenue Bridge in 2013, as well as the proceeds from the project. Another factor keeping the rate in line was a “per-ton cost for solid waste disposal.” This cost is set to keep waste fees at bay this year.
• No property tax increase in Narberth Borough for fifth year [Main Line Times]
In other news…
Photo | Jeff Fusco
For the first time since Mayor Nutter took office, the City of Philadelphia made significant, measurable progress over the past 18 months in its long-running fight against the property tax delinquency epidemic.
The total debt owed the city and School District of Philadelphia in unpaid property taxes fell over the past year, edging down $10 million between April 2013 and April 2014, according to a Philadelphia magazine and PlanPhilly analysis of city tax data. The total number of property tax deadbeats declined as well, dipping about 1,400 over the same period.
To be sure, the gains are modest given the massive scale of property tax delinquency in Philadelphia; nearly 96,000 delinquent parcels and $512 million owed, figures that dwarf those in all other big cities except Detroit.
But it’s notable nonetheless that the city managed to stop — for a time at least — the spread of tax delinquency (the epidemic has grown quickly in most years of the Nutter administration), and more notable still that the city is now reducing the total amount owed.
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UPDATE: The below has been clarified to reflect the fact that PlanPhilly was concerned only with issues around the built and natural environments, as they wrote in their post. Another clarification: My original title for this post was “Top 5 Things Planning Nerds Care About,” but I chose to make it more positive. Readers of PlanPhilly, in my experience, are all very bright. Who else would read devotedly about planning and zoning?
In order to create a more perfect Philadelphia as we move toward an election year, PennPraxis and PlanPhilly presented PlanPhilly’s readers with a list of what they described as the “most important issues facing Philadelphia’s built and natural environments” and asked their readers to answer one important question: “Which three of these issues do you feel are the most important for Philadelphia’s future?”
“We’ll use this information to help shape research and civic engagement by PennPraxis staff and reporting by PlanPhilly journalists,” writes Evan Croen, PlanPhilly’s website administrator and A Person Who Moved Here From Brooklyn.
The survey results showed that the top 5 issues are:
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Philly.com has a story today that offers mixed messages about the results of the Actual Value Initiative, the property tax program that was put into place to fix a broken system. What was broken about it? The assessments were all wrong, and many of them were wrong because they were too low. Many homeowners were paying property taxes that were dreamy and terrific because they were a pittance, and that was great for them. But they were not an accurate reflection of the marketplace of the value of their home. A program to reassess was a long time coming, but it was Mayor Nutter who finally had the cojones to make it happen.
Now philly.com has two headlines (for a single story) that are sure to piss people off, but not for the right reasons.
Headline No. 1: Thousands of Philly home owners missing out on tax break
Headline No. 2: Final score on AVI: 54 percent received property tax increases
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When you think of people who owe property taxes, you imagine an out-of-town landlord who doesn’t care that his blighted building is falling apart. You don’t tend to think of a major public agency that owes millions of dollars, but that’s the story here: SEPTA owes the city almost $22 million. Given that much of the city’s property taxes go to the schools, and given that the city is ready to sell its soul to fund the schools, it’s a bit of a surprise to learn it’s giving SEPTA a pass on that hefty bill.
It doesn’t seem as though the city necessarily wanted this to become public. Here’s how philly.com’s Sam Wood puts it:
A new 30-year agreement between the transit agency and city goes into effect on July 1 and it absolves SEPTA of the requirement to make good on the delinquency, which came to light in data collected by an economist at Penn’s Fels Institute of Government. Philly.com recently obtained the data.
And here’s the least persuasive answer to the question of why SEPTA hasn’t paid its taxes–an answer that sounds like something a kid would say when asked why he didn’t turn in his homework:
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