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Phila. Councilmembers Skirt Controversial Property Tax Vote

By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Over the objections of its sponsor, Philadelphia City Council members today delayed a vote on whether to scale back the controversial 10-year tax abatement on new properties.

The underlying issue is school funding.

Councilman Wilson Goode had called for a final vote on his bill that would make only the first $500,000 of a property eligible for the abatement, a move that affects owners of luxury properties.

"This is generally a tax break for the few, the new, and the well-to-do, not for most of Philadelphia," Goode said.

He believes trimming the abatement is one way to get more tax dollars to the school district instead of helping developers.

"We should be focused on better schools for Philadelphia, not on importing (new residents) that they (developers) think are better," Goode told his colleagues.

Goode clearly knew he did not have enough votes for final passage but called for a vote so other councilmembers would have to be on the record.  That's something many of his colleagues clearly wanted to avoid, and they decided to table the measure.

The only councilmember speaking out publicly against Goode's bill was Councilman Bill Green:

"The money does allow these developers to be able to afford to build these homes, to bring in new people.  These projects would not be developed without the tax abatement."

Goode vowed to keep calling up the measure for a final vote each week, forcing his colleagues to again table it.

He also introduced a more drastic approach that would end the tax abatement on the portion of taxes that goes to the school district (about 60 percent), leaving only the city portion abated.

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