A new study released today by the Pew Charitable Trusts (but conducted at the same time as two other recent reports on schools and the overall condition of the city), shows that Philadelphians don't understand what the Actual Value Initiative (AVI) is and want lower taxes, even at the expense of city services.
Despite two years of intense public debate and scrutiny of AVI, the city's new property assessment system which will result in major fluctuations for certain residents' tax bills, the survey found that nearly half of city residents and 27 percent of homeowners had never even heard of the initiative. Of those who had heard of AVI, 44 percent thought it would actually make the city's tax system, which was notoriously unequal and arbitrary, less fair. 30 percent said they either didn't think there would be any impact, or were otherwise ambivalent to the program.
The results are disturbing, in part because the effects of AVI are predicted to be widespread, affecting both homeowners and renters alike. Moreover, while the new system has largely been hailed by insiders as a positive and much needed reform, the study makes it clear this positive impression has not translated into public appreciation of the new system. This may have negative impacts for the remainder of Mayor Michael Nutter's term, as he made AVI one of the cornerstones of his administration.
Ironically, the new poll also revealed that Philadelphians are tired of tax increases, with most city residents in favor of lower taxes, even at the expense of already thin municipal services. While it may seem like a truism to note that citizens prefer lower taxes, as recently as last year most Philadelphians said they would prefer more services, even if it meant higher taxes.
While residents overwhelmingly opposed raising each specific category of taxation they were surveyed about, 33 percent preferred raising property taxes, compared to 27 percent for wage and business taxes.
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