Nutter challenges council to take up ‘painful’ property reassement

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter has proposed his budget for the new fiscal year. Even though it does not call for any new taxes, critics are saying a backdoor increase is coming.

Spending would go up by $100 million according to the budget plan that totals more than $3.7 billion. The increase is intended to cover more police and firefighters, as well as improvements to libraries, police stations and fire houses.

The budget counts on collecting $90 million more in property taxes for the school district by reassessing all homes and businesses to reflect current values.

Councilman Bill Green would not go so far to call it a tax hike.

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“It is a very simple thing,” he said. “If the government has more dollars from the public, private investment or consumption will be reduced by $90 million and government spending will be increased by $90 million.

“To me, that’s moving money from homeowners’ pockets to the government’s pockets to the tune of $90 million,” Green said. “We should call it what it is if we are seeking more revenue from the schools.”

Zack Stalberg of the watchdog group The Committee of 70 says raising more from the property tax — even while not raising the rate — could be trouble for the mayor during the budget process.

“In an ideal world, the reassessments should have happened first before the millage rate was set,” Stalberg said Thursday. “It’s definitely going to be difficult for the mayor to get this passed.”

Nutter said homeowners don’t have a right to tax bills based on outdated assessments. And he challenged City Council to adopt his plan.

“As painful as it may be, as challenging as it may be, as difficult as it may be, this is something that needs to be done,” Nutter said. “The time has come, and you know every now and then in this business, regardless of gender, you really just have to have the balls to do the right thing.

“Some people have them, some people don’t, and we will find out in this process who does and who doesn’t,” he said.

Philadelphia is under order from the state to make sure assessments are based on actual values.

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