Mixed reactions to Philly property-tax update
December 22, 2012By Holly Otterbein
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter announced this week he is one step closer to revolutionizing the way property taxes are handled in the city. His team is almost finished revaluing every property in Philadelphia in an effort to change the error-ridden assessments currently on the books.
But it’s ultimately up to City Council to make or break Nutter’s property-tax overhaul.
So how are Council members feeling about this week's update?
Councilman W. Wilson Goode Jr. was one of several lawmakers who breathed a sigh of relief after a briefing from Nutter’s team. Nutter estimated that the property-tax rate under his plan would be 1.3 percent to 1.4 percent — less than previously thought.
“It’s my belief that would mean a reduction in property taxes for a majority of Philadelphians,” Goode said. “Those of us who have been intensely involved in this issue and studying what is best for the city are pleased.”
Others weren’t so optimistic. Councilman Mark Squilla’s district includes flourishing neighborhoods such as Northern Liberties and Fishtown, where property values have soared. Combine their higher assessments with that tax rate, and some of his constituents could see their bills triple, he said.
“That’s a lot for them to budget,” said Squilla. “Are we going to tax them out of their properties?”
Councilman David Oh is worried about how Nutter’s plan would affect longtime residents of those gentrified neighborhoods.
“They didn’t get a 10-year tax abatement,” he said. “Their inability to pay that rate is of great concern.”
Councilman Jim Kenney was more blunt about his misgivings. He said he wouldn’t vote for the property-tax rate Nutter is discussing. However, he isn't sure if a majority of Council members are on his side.
“I know I’m not alone. The question is, are there enough to impact it?” he said. “There’s some folks in Council who believe that whatever the bill is, you pay it.”
Jane Roh, Council President Darrell Clarke’s spokeswoman, expressed another common take on the property-tax overhaul update.
“There isn't much to comment on until we get the assessments,” she said.
The Nutter administration is planning to release data on how the changes affect specific neighborhoods in a few weeks. Property owners are then scheduled to receive their individual assessments in February.
A few months later, Council will determine the fate of Nutter’s plan.