Council's 'serious six' to examine issue of tax delinquents

The 2300 block of Gerritt Street in Point Breeze includes three vacant houses. The city's lack of an efficient system for dealing with abandoned, tax-delinquent properties means such sites often remain festering for many years. In other cities, they would be cleared off within as little as a year.

City Council’s serious six want to take a hard look at the issue of tax delinquency just as the legislative body is set to move forward with Mayor Nutter’s planned shift to a new property-tax system.

Today Council members Bobby Henon, Cindy Bass, Mark Squilla, Kenyatta Johnson, Denny O’Brien and David Oh introduced six resolutions calling for hearings on the following issues: delinquent vacant property, understanding real estate tax delinquency, delinquent commercial property, delinquent residential investment property, delinquent owner-occupied property and understanding national best practices and next steps.

“The fact is it is simply unfair that while most people pay their property-taxes there is still some who do not,” said Councilwoman Bass. “We intend to investigate this problem.”

The serious six (a name given to the freshman members by Councilman Curtis Jones Jr.) also plan to hold public policy briefings and have launched the website to help taxpayers understand the system, the changes to come and ways to get onto a payment plan.

This follows Nutter’s announcement earlier this week to update and invest $40 million into the city’s outdated computer system and hiring 55 employees to go after the hundreds of millions of dollars owed to the city by tax deadbeats.

It also comes as the city is set to shift to a property-tax system based on market values, known as the Actual Value Initiative (AVI). Council got a first look Wednesday at how many people could see increases to their tax bills. According to data obtained by the Daily News, more than 36,000 property owners will see their tax bills increase by at least $1,000 a year - including more than 600 that will spike by more than $5,000 – under AVI.

“I think the conversation is fitting as we address the issue of AVI,” said Councilman Johnson. “Obviously, parts of Graduate Hospital in my district will be significantly impacted, some part of Center City and parts of Point Breeze, I gather there will be some increases, but Eastwick will probably get a break. I want to make sure it’s a fair balance across the board.”