The Mayor's Actual Value Initiative, a decade-overdue updating of property tax assessments, might just be the issue that tests Council President Darrell Clarke's ability to whip Council into consensus, especially since it's combined with a request for $90 million-plus in additional funding for Philadelphia School District. After all, rookie Councilman Mark Squilla has introduced a bill trying to delay AVI for a year; Councilwomen Blondell Reynolds Brown and Maria Quinones-Sanchez came out in support of AVI in a DN opinion piece; and Councilman Bill Green and and Councilman Curtis Jones got into a heated debate today at council over whether, in fact, "manning up" for Philly students and supporting AVI are one and the same.
Green complained that the "administration's proposal could shift hundreds of millions in taxes away from businesses to homeowners," and that proposed fixes like a "homestead exemption" for owner-occupied homes are far from certain to materialize or to help if they do. "They tell us that [proceeding with AVI with out a millage rate] is legal, even though case law requires a millage rate be set." And if savings programs don't go into effect, he says, the city could over-collect by $1.5 billion.
Besides, all this working out depends on everything going smoothly with the calculations, an unlikely proposition, he said, because of ongoing Office of Technology delays. "There are a lot of variables and uncertainties and everything will have to go exactly right and on schedule. That has not been my experience in government the last four years. That has not been my experience with this administration."
To cap it off, he said, "I recently read about a flasher arrested for flashing in the Bucks County Home for the Blind. The Mayor's proposal is as effective as that flasher. He has sent us a tax package but we as the public can't see it. perhaps he hasn't been told that he's wearing no clothes."
Councilman Curtis Jones was equally fired up, roaring, "Roll call! Time to man up!... Why is it that when it comes to our public school children that we cannot find that constitution with ourselves.... If we got snookered last time we will do better this time, but we will not abandon those kids — not on my watch."
Green promised he would man up on both AVI and school funding. But, he insists, "They are completely separate issues."
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