Property assessments on Council's mind

In his budget address last week, Mayor Nutter presented a plan in which he hopes to collect an additional $90 million in property-taxes. The extra dough would be collected as the city switches to a property-tax system based on market values which would make permanent the revenue increases from two temporary tax hikes.

But, several City Council members called the effort a “backdoor" tax increase during today’s Council session and urged that the assessments be revenue neutral.

“We should collect the same dollars next year as we collected last year. If we do not, we all know what that is,” said Councilman Bill Green. “If we were to collect $90 million dollars more under the current tax structure that we would have to increase millage then that would be a tax increase.”

Under Nutter's proposal, Council would have to set a new property-tax rate before residents get their new assessments in the fall.

Freshman Councilman Mark Squilla said the city should continue efforts to collect funds from tax delinquents.

“It’s sad that people think that we only go after the people who pay taxes,” Squilla said. “We have over $472 million of unpaid taxes in the City of Philadelphia that we can collect and not have to raise one single tax here.”

Meanwhile, Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez noted that Council needs to come up with additional resources for the School District and the city’s safety-net programs which face severe cuts under Gov. Corbett’s plan.

“I’m not going to play semantics as to whether this is a tax increase or not,” Quinones-Sanchez said, adding that the state budget is threatening the city’s most vulnerable. “This proposal by the Mayor doesn’t even supplement any of those cuts. There’s going to be a huge cut to services of people in the most need.”

“This Council needs to come up with more resources so that we can take care of all of these folks,” she said. “It will not be perfect and I don’t think any of us should expect it to, but I want to deal with this and be fair to the people who are going to lose their safety net and the School District who needs the funding.”