Council offers AVI back-up plan, Inspector General to go after tax evaders?

It never hurts to have a back-up plan.

Should Mayor Nutter’s proposal to move to a new property-tax system based on market values fail to be implemented or is applied revenue neutral Council president Darrell Clarke introduced four bills today that would provide the School District an additional $85 million either through an increase in the Use and Occupancy tax –which applies only to commercial and industrial property owners or an increase in real estate taxes.

“We may not even use these measures we just want to be in a position as we get closer to a time when we will have to vote we have every potential opportunity,” Clarke said.

Last week Councilman Bill Green proposed a similar bill that would double the Use and Occupancy Tax to raise the additional $94 million for schools --which is the amount the school district has asked Council for.

Council remains divided on Nutter’s plan to shift to a property-tax system that uses market values and collect an additional $94 million for the school district along the way. Critics have called it a back-door tax hike while the Administration has said it is simply capturing the increase in property values.

More recently uncertainty about state enabling legislation that would allow the city to adjust the millage rate down and provide a “homestead exemption” to provide relief –has further complicated matters.

But, some members say it’s hard to talk taxes when the city has not collected money it’s owed.

So, Councilman Jim Kenney introduced a bill that would give the Office of the Inspector General jurisdiction over delinquent accounts suspected of involving fraud or tax evasion. Such action currently falls under the Department of Revenue.

“I’m not happy with the level of effort on part of the Revenue Department to be proactive in its attempt to track down all money owed and owed to the city,” Kenney said, adding that he thinks an independent entity should handle such matters. The Office of Inspector General Amy Kurland said she has not had a chance to review the bill and was unable to comment.