Philadelphia budget inching toward the finish line

A state senator will not amend a key piece of legislation in Harrisburg that Philadelphia needs to overhaul its property tax system. That’s a big development helping Philadelphia get its budget through, but the finish line isn’t in view yet.

Philadelphia needs Harrisburg’s blessing to enact the Actual Value Initiative.  AVI reassesses all properties, sets new tax rates and, in the process, would provide an extra $94 million for Philadelphia schools.  

State Sen. Larry Farnese, D-Philadelphia, was trying to amend the bill to mandate that City Council hold separate votes on AVI and the school money.  Council leadership has promised to hold the separate votes so now Farnese says he’s confident the amendment isn’t necessary.

“Then we’ll be able to move forward and they’ll be able to handle those issues that we were going to handle through my amendment here in City Council,” said Farnese.

Two separate votes could be viewed as council approving a tax increase, rather than “recapturing value” as the Nutter Administration has been selling it.  Spokesman Mark McDonald says Mayor Michael Nutter just wants to get the work done.

 “However city council chooses to package the bills, the process that they think is important to follow, that’s for them to do,” said McDonald.  “It’s clearly important work, but we have no preference for how they go about packaging those bills.”

Council President Darrell Clarke says any money given to the school district will have conditions attached.

“We all care about our children, but, at the end of the day, there has to be a basis for putting money in a school district that is not producing adequate results,” said Clarke.  “Some members of council are working some language that talks about the accountability measures we’d like to see before we are comfortable with providing additional funding to the school district.”

All this work must be done before the new fiscal year begins July 1.

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