Thursday, October 23, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Will Council support abolishing the BRT?

The city is slowly taking steps to fix our broken property tax system. Yesterday, the heads of the Board of Revision of Taxes voted to hand over most of their power to the Nutter Administration.

Will Council support abolishing the BRT?

The city is slowly taking steps to fix our broken property tax system. Yesterday, the heads of the Board of Revision of Taxes voted to hand over most of their power to the Nutter Administration.

In the short term, Mayor Nutter and his staff are now responsible for much of the BRT's operations. They have key decisions to make soon, such as what to do with the agency's patronage employees, and whether to continue reassessing properties before a more accurate assessment system is adopted, which could take years.

In the long term, Council's vote signaled that it will likely approve a bill abolishing the BRT at its next session, scheduled for next Thursday. After that, Philadelphia voters would decide the agency's fate in the May primary, with a ballot question that would dissolve the BRT on Sept. 30.

That's probably going to be hailed as great news by most Philadelphians, who have been dealing with an unfair and burdensome system for years. However, not everyone is excited about the change.

Council members wasted hardly a moment yesterday discussing or debating the broader impact of the legislation, which stands to affect every property owner in the city. Instead, they focused on whether the administration would do enough to preserve the livelihoods of the patronage workers, some of whom owe their jobs to Council members.

"I can't support any BRT legislation if we don't protect employees," said Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, who secured a position for at least one BRT patronage worker. "If you don't commit to that, then I can't commit to you."

Council plays a critical role in the next step, since they have to approve a bill to abolish the BRT. Then, it's up to city voters to decide the fate of the troubled agency. We'll likely find out next week which Council members are on board with the changes and who will resist.

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Every year, city government spends slightly more than $4 billion. Where does all that money come from? More importantly, where does it go? Are we getting the most bang for our tax buck? “It's Our Money” is a joint project between Philadelphia Daily News and WHYY, funded by the William Penn Foundation, designed to answer these questions.

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