Against the backdrop of tony Rittenhouse Square, protesters with the Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools and like-minded organizations donned Halloween costumes Tuesday afternoon for a festive rally against the city's 10-year property tax abatement.
The abatement, which became law about 15 years ago, applies to all newly-constructed or improved properties in the city.
But, according to a report released Tuesday by PCAPS, the program will deprive Philadelphia schools of millions in property tax revenue in the coming year, with three buildings in Rittenhouse Square alone accounting for $2.1 million of the loss.
"The paper we are releasing today documents two facts," activist and retired teacher Ron Whitehorne said. "One, the schools are losing significant revenue because of these abatements. We project the loss at $50 million in the coming year. "Secondly, the main beneficiaries of these tax breaks are wealthy real estate developers and owners. Of the more than 16,000 tax-abated properties, the top five properties alone account for $15 million in lost revenue to the school district. These are luxury condos and housing developments concentrated in Center City."
The PCAPS report, titled "Short-Changing Philadelphia Students," found just 24 percent of property tax abatements go to single-family homes, while the majority of abated properties are owned by large developers.
"While our schools are suffering, our city's most wealthy building owners are not paying their fair share," said Kia Hinton, an activist with Action United and mother of three students in the city public school system.
The protesters attempted to deliver a "Trick or Treat" message, leafleting tax-abated luxury highrises 10 Rittenhouse, 1706 Rittenhouse and Parc Rittenhouse, but Civil Affairs officers and private security denied them entry.