Archive: June, 2012
Council wrapped up a very interesting session yesterday, and IOM's own Holly Otterbein will be on Radio Times with Marty Moss-Coane, along with WHYY's Dave Davies and Tom MacDonald, this morning at 11 to discuss it. Topics will include AVI and Darrell Clarke's first session as Council President. Tune in!
UPDATE: In case you missed it, you can listen to the analysis here.
It's Our Money
In today's It's Our Money editorial, we argue that after years of property-tax hikes, it's time for the city to make real cuts. (Here's a breakdown of how we calculated how much the city has raised taxes compared to how much it has cut.)
We suggest that officials use this summer to start planning cuts for next year.
Check out the editorial, which appeared in the Daily News, below:
Last month, we reported that Philadelphia taxpayers paid years of utility bills for a private business. Now, we have found that the city paid utilities for another business owned by the same politically-connected man.
Check out the article, which appeared in the Daily News, below. You can also listen to the story on WHYY.
Today's Daily News editorial mentions that since the recession, the city has brought in $370 million through tax hikes, and cut $175 million in spending. Here are the numbers in detail.
We calculated the revenue generated by each tax hike by taking the taxes collected each year and subtracting the tax revenue projected for that year in Fiscal Year 2009, before the recession hit.
We did not take into account planned tax cuts that were postponed.
Last month, Councilman Bill Green argued that businesses overall would get a property tax cut under Mayor Nutter’s Actual Value Initiative (AVI).
But now Green says that’s no longer the case. He believes that businesses’ property tax bills, in the aggregate, would stay the same. His projection changed because the circumstances have changed, which shows just how fast-moving this debate is.
Earlier this year, Green said that AVl would move the tax burden from businesses to homeowners. Currently, the average commercial and industrial properties are assessed more accurately than houses, he said.
In this week’s podcast, we helped you calculate what your new property tax bill could be under Mayor Nutter’s Actual Value Initiative (AVI). He wants to remake Philadelphia's broken property-tax system by reassessing all properties in the city.
But if you’re as nosy as us, you’re also curious about what people throughout Philadelphia will be paying.
The Philadelphia Public Interest Information Network has put together a map that shows how different neighborhoods could be affected under AVI. It uses a 1.8 percent rate. (If you’re wondering why everyone is talking about a 1.8 rate these days, it’s because a Council consultant has estimated a total value of about $80 billion, and finance director Rob Dubow agreed last week that’s a “reasonable” number for analysis. He says that would mean the tax rate would likely be between 1.6 and 1.8 percent.)
By now you've probably heard that the mayor and City Council are in the midst of debating a property tax reassessment. Under this new plan, some people will pay more in property taxes, while others will pay less. But we know the primary concern of most Philadelphians is probably not policy issues — it's how much they'll have to pay in property taxes once the new assessments kick in.
City Council hasn't finalized its property tax plan yet, but enough information has emerged for you to make a preliminary estimate at what you'll be paying after the reassessment — if it passes.
On this week's It's Our Money podcast, we walk you through the calculations. We want to stress that this is still speculation. But it's educated speculation. If you want to see these numbers in print, check out Philly Clout's rundown.
Philadelphia City Council members have long complained that Mayor Nutter hasn’t given them enough information about the ramifications of his proposed Actual Value Initiative, or AVI. Under AVI, Nutter wants to fix Philadelphia's broken property-tax system by reassessing all homes and businesses in the city, and raise an extra $94 million for the school district in the process.
Now Council members say the administration has drastically changed the little information it did provide, and this makes some more skeptical about passing AVI.
Earlier this year, the Nutter administration gave Council a taste of how AVI could affect specific neighborhoods. The analysis used an estimated tax rate of 1.25 percent for when AVI would fully go into effect.
Sometimes, when our phone line was particularly quiet, we’d get worried that you had run out of neighborhood problems, and we couldn’t be useful anymore. On the other hand, that’s what we wanted, right? If you stopped calling, it could mean only good things. But then, someone would call to say that dozens of stray cats were camping out in an abandoned RV on a vacant lot. And we’d feel silly. Run out of neighborhood problems? In Philly?
The City Howl Help Desk is closing its doors for now, but we’re going to leave you with some lessons we’ve learned from looking into your quality-of-life complaints these last couple of years. We’ve broken these down into tips for you, and for the city. Thanks for trusting us with your gripes.
For the city
Communicate! We hear it from neighbors all the time: The city’s ignoring me. But when we dug into the complaint, it often turned out that the city actuallyhad listened — the resident just had no idea. The city has to do a better job of explaining to citizens exactly what it can or can’t do, and how long it will take. Sometimes the city is hesitant to tell residents what it can’t do, 3-1-1 director Rosetta Lue once told us. Well, the city has to get over that.
Tell the man on the phone that the city might not demolish that rotting, abandoned house next door, even if it is attracting raccoons, because the city takes down only "imminently dangerous" houses. Tell him how to find out whether an inspector visited the house, and what was decided. Otherwise, he’ll wait and wait for that bulldozer, and he’ll lose a little more faith in his government.
Or tell the woman complaining about the dark, bottomless sinkhole that the city fills those holes only during warm months. Let her know that, even if it’s cold out, someone at the city should still make the hole safe — and if no one does, then she should call back. Otherwise, she’ll be livid next month when she sees nothing’s changed.
Take one for the team. We understand that doing extra work, outside your job description, stinks. But one of the most frustrating things a city employee can do is tell a resident, "It’s not my problem." Philadelphians are tired of being passed from one agency to another, and city employees, when contacted about a problem, need to be more willing to take initiative to get that problem solved — not just look for reasons to say it’s someone else’s responsibility (even if it is).
Last year, a manhole sat open in Queen Village for six months because every city agency said it wasn’t responsible for it. The agencies weren’t lying — it was an abandoned manhole. It didn’t change the fact that it was dangerous and needed to be fixed. Finally, Peco stepped up and covered the hole.
The last two years, when the city debated property tax hikes, state lawmakers from the Philadelphia area were not major players. But this year, as the mayor and Council consider a property tax reassessment — and the possibility of collecting $94 million from taxpayers for the School District — state lawmakers are all up in the city's business. Four different lawmakers have sought to stop the city from collecting more in property taxes after the reassessment.
One of those lawmakers, state Sen. Larry Farnese, withdrew his proposal to require the city to vote on the reassessment and sending more money to the School District separately, because City Council agreed to do so regardless.
Still, Harrisburg lawmakers have very much crashed the city's property tax party this year. What gives? Listen to this week's It's Our Money podcast to find out.