City finance director Rob Dubow has spent a lot of time in City Council chambers over the last five years, patiently handling thousands of questions from the city’s lawmakers, while trying to steer the city’s budget through a national recession and a dismal recovery. Nobody has asked more pointed questions than Councilman Bill Green, an open critic of the Nutter administration’s performance and an all-but-declared candidate to run for mayor himself in 2015.
So picture the following exchange Wednesday in City Council, where the city’s chief assessment officer, Richie McKeithen, was sitting at the witness table, describing the city’s efforts to assess all city real estate at its full market value. Dubow had testified earlier but was sitting in the audience in case Council needed more from his office, and Green was trying to figure out exactly how much information McKeithen’s assessors have already collected on the city’s 579,383 real-estate parcels.
Green to McKeithen: “I want you to do something which I think it would be very hard for someone from the administration to do. Imagine I know nothing….”
An ad lib from Dubow, in the front row: “I’m there.”
Green himself joined the laughter.
It was the only light moment in a serious standoff between Council and the administration, which wants the lawmakers to ratify a move to full-value assessments this fall, without any solid information on how it will affect the tax bills of individual homeowners. Virtually everyone’s assessment will go up sharply, but the tax bills may go up or down, depending mostly on how out-of-touch current assessments are in different neighborhoods.
McKeithen said the city’s assessors have looked at about 70 percent of the city’s properties but need more time to complete the job. Green suggested the administration should be able to provide some strong analysis already.