Alternate Tax Plan Surfaces In Council
By Mike Dunn
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - As City Council continues grappling with Mayor Michael Nutter's controversial property tax proposal, one of the local lawmakers is pushing an alternate plan.
Councilman-at-large Bill Green, a frequent critic of the mayor, says Nutter's plan to raise $94 million more for the schools would most severely hurt residential property owners. Green's plan would shift the burden on commercial property owners.
"We're still collecting everything the mayor is asking for (under Green's plan). It's just that it's going to be distributed between commercial/industrial property owners and residential property owners differently," Green explained.
The mayor proposes bringing in the new revenue by shifting to a new property assessment system dubbed the Actual Value Initiative, or AVI. Under Green's plan, the extra $94 million would be raised by boosting a different tax entirely -- one that hits only commercial property owners.
READ: Complete CBS Philly coverage of Mayor Nutter's Actual Value Tax Initiative
The city would "keep the Actual Value Initiative on a revenue neutral basis," Green said, "raising no new revenue -- and (instead) raising the Use and Occupancy Tax -- which applies only to commercial and property owners -- by $94 million, and providing that money to the school district."
The councilman insists that the commercial property owners may still come out fine: he believes they are likely to see huge tax decreases under the mayor's plan, and Green claims his proposal would only slightly lessen those reductions. The Use and Occupancy Tax is based on the square footage of commercial and industrial properties.
Green's proposal will now become part of the often-private discussions among council members and aides to the mayor as the budget battle drags on.
Also on the table: First District Councilman Mark Squilla's proposal to delay implementation of AVI by one year because the new assessments are not yet complete.
The Nutter Administration opposes any delay.
Council President Clarke, meantime, held a hearing Monday on his proposals to offer caps to residential property owners in gentrified neighborhoods who potentially could be hardest hit by the mayor's proposal.
The mayor's Finance Director, Rob Dubow, testified that such caps could result in a higher tax rate for all.
"To the extent that we give relief, there will be some loss in revenue that we'd have to make up for by increasing the millage rate. So everyone who wasn't getting the relief would be paying more."
Despite the competing plans -- and uncertainty over the actual assessment figures -- Clarke says he's still optimistic that the entire matter could be resolved by month's end, the traditional but often-ignored deadline for Council to pass a budget.
"A lot of this, given the complexities of this particular issue, has established a process that is unlike any I've ever experienced in my 12 years as a Councilman. I don't think we'll ever get to a place that will satisfy everybody and we'll have a 100 percent consensus. But we're trying to get a measure in place with a budget and certain protections for the citizens."
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