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Council debates proposals to ease sticker shock of Philly’s new property tax bills

Philadelphia City Council will debate several bills Monday aimed at cushioning the blow to low-income taxpayers and those in gentrifying neighborhoods if Council adopts Mayor Michael Nutter’s plan to go to a property tax system based on real market values.

The bills were introduced by City Council President Darrell Clark, who said he drafted several measures so there are a number of options available.

“We can give a certain exemption for a portion of their increase in taxes,” Clarke said in an interview Friday. “Or we can actually cap the level of increases in taxes for that particular neighborhood, or we can actually provide a deferral.”

Freshman Councilman Mark Squilla, who represents many property owners in South Philadelphia, Center City and Northern Liberties, said they’re worried.

“Now they feel they may be taxed out of their homes,” Squilla said. “We need to make sure if their taxes do go up 100, 200, 300 percent, we need to try to protect those people to make sure we’re not forcing them out.”

Council members are uneasy about Nutter’s proposal because the city hasn’t yet finished the new property assessments, so nobody knows what kind of tax bill they might be hit with.

Nutter hasn’t yet shared his opinion of Clarke’s bills, and Clarke himself said he isn’t sure which combination of bills will work best.

Clarke said in easing taxpayers’ pain, Council can’t leave the city without the revenue it needs to fund services.

Clarke said he expects Council will vote the tax relief bills out of committee Monday, but won’t make any final decisions on which of them they’ll choose when they craft a city budget and tax plan.

Council must enact a plan by the end of June.

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