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City Council approves property-tax increase

Friday, May 14th, 2010

Property taxes in Philadelphia may increase nearly 10 percent under a budget deal that got preliminary approval in City Council yesterday.

Council had a big budget hole to fill, and instead of the trash collection fee Mayor Nutter had proposed, members opted for a property tax hike that will cost the owner of an average home about $113 a year.

Member chose that levy over Mayor Nutter’s proposed trash collection fee, despite warnings like this one from Curt Gasper, of the Realtor’s Association:

“We have a large situation with people wanting to leave the city rather than move in,” said Gaspar. “We don’t want people hearing about another real estate tax increase and preventing people from moving into the city or relocating to the city.”

There’s also a new tax on cigars and chewing tobacco, and a trash fee for commercial properties that use city trash pickup.

Members debated Nutter’s proposed soda tax, and heard pleas like this from Auntie’s Anne’s pretzel stand owner John Lyman:

“Our hand-rolled pretzels and a cold beverage go hand in hand,” Lyman told Council members, “kind of like Abbot and Costello. And with proposed tax it will not only devastate by beverage sales, but that will also affect my pretzel sales.”

After a tense debate, council members declined to act on the soda tax.

Council chambers were crawling with lobbyists trying to defeat the soda tax. Council President Anna Verna says it appeared there were enough votes to approve the levy, but some members got cold feet.

“People need time to cool down and really look at this in a sensible way,” says Verna.

Nutter says revenue from the soda tax is still needed. Council could still pass a soda tax next week. It would likely be less than half as big as the Mayor had proposed.

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