Sunday, February 14, 2016

Council moves to cut BRT pay

Moving as briskly as parliamentary rules permit, a City Council committee gave its approval to an ordinance Thursday morning that would eventually slash the pay of members of the Board of Revision of Taxes, but not quite in the manner Mayor Nutter had called for.

Council moves to cut BRT pay

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Moving as briskly as parliamentary rules permit, a City Council committee gave its approval to an ordinance Thursday morning that would eventually slash the pay of members of the Board of Revision of Taxes, but not quite in the manner Mayor Nutter had called for.

A full Council vote is scheduled for next Thursday.

The mayor had asked council to cut the salaries of the seven BRT members from $70,000-$75,000 a year to $18,700, which appears to be the minimum allowed by state law. Instead, council is on track to reduce the salary of the BRT chair from $75,000 to $50,000, and the BRT secretary's pay from $72,000 to $45,000.

The other five members of the board would not get an annual salary, but would be paid $150 for each day the member attends a BRT hearing or meeting. Presuming those members attended a meeting every business day of the year they could earn a maximum of $39,000 annually under council's working ordinance. Typically, however, BRT members attend meetings roughly three days a week and for only part of the year.

Although the Nutter administration described the pay cut as purely a budget savings measure, it seems clear that the salary reductions are the Mayor's payback for the BRT’s refusal to extend a joint management agreement that had given Nutter control over day-to-day assessment operations at the independent agency.

The administration pursued the pay cuts almost immediately after the BRT let the management agreement lapse. And Nutter, enraged by the board's actions, likened its members to "pirates."

Those members could soon lose their jobs permanently, rendering the debate over salary moot.

In May, city voters are scheduled to approve or reject a ballot measure that would eliminate the BRT altogether, and replace it with two new entities: an independent board that would hear property assessment appeals, and a new office under the indirect control of the mayor that would set property values.

If approved, the board would cease to exist on Oct. 1 of this year. Their reduced salaries, then, would be paid for only five months. If the ballot measure is rejected, the board would continue to earn the reduced rate.

Councilman Brian O'Neill, who offered the amendment altering the proposed salaries of the board members, used the ballot measure as a guideline for what to pay the BRT. If council passes the ordinance as expected next week, BRT members will earn the same compensation as the leaders of the independent assessment appeals agency that, with voter approval, would replace the BRT on Oct. 1.

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The Philadelphia Inquirer's Chris Hepp, Tricia Nadolny, Julia Terruso, and Claudia Vargas take you inside Philadelphia's City Hall.

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