PICA Chairman Raises Concerns About Proposed Property Tax Hike

The head of the state fiscal watchdog group that oversees the city budget said he has concerns about the 9.9 percent property tax hike which received tentative approval from City Council yesterday.

Jim Eisenhower, board chairman of the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority, which must grant approval to the city's budget and five year financial plan, said he was concerned about adding to a property tax system that Mayor Nutter has criticized as inaccurate.

"When you have the city saying that the asssessments as they are now are not tenable and based on faulty data, and you’re adding a 9.9 per increase on those faulty assesments, it seems there’s certainly risk there," Eisenhower said. He noted that the city could then be vulnerable to legal challenges.

Council yesteday voted 10-7 to give preliminary approval to a budget with a temporary 9.9 percent property tax increase and new taxes on some tobacco products, but did not act on a soda tax lobbied for by Nutter.

Eisenhower said it was too soon to say whether PICA would reject or approve a plan with a 9.9 percent property tax hike. He also raised concerns about the level of the surplus fund balance under the current plan -- a concern shared by the mayor.

"It’s cutting down to pretty much bare bones. As we’ve seen in the last two years, things tend to happen," Eisenhower said, noting the recent economic downturn and the unexpected blizzards over the winter.