Mayor Kenney to seek property tax hike to help offset schools' nearly $1 billion deficit

Mayor Kenney stood in front of City Council last year and pledged to seize control of Philadelphia’s schools — and cover most of their nearly $1 billion shortfall.

“The buck will stop with us,” he promised.

On Thursday, he’ll put his money where his mouth is.

At his annual budget address, Kenney will propose directing somewhere between an extra $700 million and $1 billion to the city’s schools over the next five years, according to sources in City Hall who were not authorized to speak publicly about the financial plan.

He is going to ask Council to increase the property tax rate and the real estate transfer tax, sources said. He is also expected to suggest slowing down the previously planned reductions in the city’s wage tax.

Sources said the mayor’s recommended property tax hike will be about 6 percent. At the same time, they said, he will ask Council to raise the value of the homestead exemption — a property tax break for homeowners — from $30,000 to $40,000 of assessed value.

In addition to the increased school funding, Kenney’s budget will also include investments in public safety departments, according to sources.

Under former Mayor Nutter, lawmakers voted to boost property taxes four times in order to pump money into the underfunded school district. The city also brought in additional cash during a real estate reassessment. Nutter sought a property tax increase of 9.3 percent during his final year in office, but Council ended up approving a lower figure, 4.5 percent, in addition to a higher parking tax and use-and-occupancy tax on businesses.

In 2016, Kenney signed Philadelphia’s soda tax into law partly to expand pre-K throughout the city.

Asked for comment, mayoral spokesman Mike Dunn said “the mayor will deliver his budget to City Council tomorrow morning” and “it would be inappropriate to comment before his address to Council members, and to residents, about the challenges facing Philadelphia.”