AVI rhetoric heats up

This property tax debate is getting really nasty.

Mayor Nutter today held a press conference with State Sen. Tony Williams, calling on state lawmakers to support enabling legislation he needs for his property tax plan, known as the Actual Value Initiative (AVI), which would calculate tax bills using properties’ market values. Both pols said the city needs AVI to happen, both to make the property tax system more equitable and to get the $94 million in additional revenue Nutter wants for the schools.

But Williams mostly used the platform to hammer Philadelphia elected officials for not uniformly supporting AVI.

“Harrisburg is watching us. Those bills were moving through the legislature quite effectively, quite quietly, the governor was prepared to sign them until Philadelphia decided to have its own food fight and some members within our own delegation decided that well, maybe it’s not in our best interest to move forward on this AVI concept,” Williams said.

Williams did not name names, but one state lawmaker who has raised questions on AVI is State Sen. Larry Farnese, who has introduced legislation that would require Council to deal with AVI and schools revenue as separate issues. That would require two separate votes on the issues, which could potentially make it harder to get the revenues.

“I support AVI,” Farnese said. “I don’t understand why Tony Williams isn’t supporting my amendment. It doesn’t preclude them from doing anything. “

Williams also said: “for some strange reason people get on television and tell poor people in North Philadelphia and West Philadelphia and other sections that your price, the cost of your property is going to be wiped away by this new thing the mayor has come up with, which is nothing more than a bold faced lie.”

Williams later said he was referring to City Controller Alan Butkovitz and called his rhetoric “irresponsible.” Butkovitz said he has simply been raising concerns about how AVI will work, particularly since no data has been released on the new property evaluations.

“AVI can’t happen when they don’t know what the values are. You can’t operate something like this blindly,” Butkovitz said.