Council proposes 12 percent property tax hike


City Councilman Frank DiCicco Thursday proposed a 12 percent property tax increase to replace Mayor Nutter's proposed $300 trash fee, a plan DiCicco describes as more equitable despite the city's flawed property assessment system.

The proposal appears to have support on Council, and was co-sponsored by Majority Leader Marian B. Tasco and at-large Councilman James F. Kenney.

"At the end of the day, I'll do what I have to do to close the $150 million gap," Tasco said Thursday before Council's regular session, at which DiCicco introduced his bill.

Nutter, in his budget address March 4, proposed the trash fee and a 2-cents-per-ounce tax on sweet drinks as a way to fill an estimated $150 million hole in his proposed $3.9 billion budget. The trash fee would raise $107 million; the sweet drink tax $57 million toward the general fund ($38 million the first year) and $20 million for anti-obesity programs. DiCicco's proposal is meant to generate $107 million, making unnecessary the trash fee.

DiCicco's legislation would raise the property tax rate by $1, changing the millage rage from $3.31 per $100 of assessed value to $4.31 for every $100 of assessed value. City Council has not raised property taxes since 1989 - a convenient political arrangement in which the appointed Board of Revision of Taxes has essentially raised money for the elected Council and Mayor by hiking individual assessments.

DiCicco said he recognized the inequities inherent in the city's assessed property values, which Nutter and the Board of Revision of Taxes ordered frozen this year because of inaccuracies and wide disparities among assessed values for similar properties, but "We're not going to be able to change that overnight."

Supporters say the property tax gives greater protection to low income residents, who are eligible for property tax rebates, and allows residents to deduct the increase on their taxes. Opponents question whether such an attempt can be successfully challenged in court given admitted state of assessments.

Nutter has said he was willing to work with Council on a compromise to his trash fee, though last week budget director Steve Agostini was wary of a property tax hike. "While the administration will move to fix the assessment system as quickly as possible, the data cleanup process could take two years," Agostini told Council during budget hearings. "Without these fixes in place, the administration remains uncomfortable proposing an increase in property-tax rates."

No word yet from Nutter on today's legislation.

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