Philly Tax Reform - Again

Andrey Armyagov

With Mayor Nutter's city property reassessment program (Actual Value Initiative) looming amid uncertainty regarding its impact, Philly state House members are offering egislation aimed at tax relief.

While the city's 26 elected officials in Harrisburg -- all but two are Democrats -- have next to no clout in a Republican-run Legislature not known for a love of Philly, it's nice to see at least an effort at helping city homeowners.

So with more caveats than promise, let me share some of the things these (often less-than-impressive) electeds have in mind.

At a Capitol news conference Tuesday, city delegation head Rep. Cherelle Parker (and, yes, she's the one charged with DUI) was to unveil bills to, among other things, better collect delinquent taxes, allow homeowners to pay tax bills in installments and create two classes of taxes for residences and businesses. This later requires a constitutional amendment, which means it would take years to implement IF it were to pass.

Parker says there's a uniform effort among lawmakers (including the two Republicans), Nutter, City Council and the school district to push for quick action.

Part of the package would give Philadelphia the authority to go after unpaid taxes on city properties by placing liens on properites outside the city that are owned by owners of delinquent city properties.

In other words, developers, owners or landlords not paying what they owe in the city would face liens on anything they own outside the city.

Citing stats from the city Department of Revenue, Parker says there are 99,612 delinquent parcels owing $279 million in unpaid real estate taxes. She also says more than 10,000 owners hold multiple delinquent parcels, so going after them could produce some results.

Collecting unpaid property taxes long has been problematic and no doubt much of the total owed is long-past uncollectable. But, hey, any new effort with any new twist has to be worth trying.

The package of bills is to be the subject of a public hearing at the Constitution Center January 28.