WEEKLY REPORT: MEMBERS PLEDGE TO MITIGATE IMPACT OF INCREASED PROPERTY TAX ASSESSMENTS ON PHILLY HOMEOWNERS

In Allan Domb, Cherelle Parker, Council News, Curtis Jones, Jr., Darrell L. Clarke, David Oh, Helen Gym, Jamie Gauthier, Kendra Brooks, Mark Squilla, News by PHL Council

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FACING INCREASED PROPERTY ASSESSMENTS, COUNCIL LEADERS PROMISE TO “EXPLORE EVERY AVAILABLE OPTION” TO MITIGATE TAX INCREASES

A stretch of Lombard Street in Philadelphia’s Graduate Hospital neighborhood

When the Kenney administration’s Office of Property Assessment and Revenue Department disclosed that the average residential property owner’s assessment would increase by 31 percent for next year’s tax bills, City Council leaders responded immediately.

Council’s AVI Monitoring Group — five Councilmembers plus Council President Darrell L. Clarke — issued a statement after OPA, Revenue and Finance Department officials disclosed large assessment increases being prepared for issuance to property owners in the city.

“We have received the news from the Office of Property Assessment and the Kenney administration regarding a significant increase in the assessed values of many Philadelphians’ most important asset: Their homes.”

The statement continued: “The AVI Monitoring Group of City Council will explore every available option to mitigate these substantial increases in property assessments.  Those options include the homestead exemption, as well as the LOOP (Long-Term Owner Occupant) program, property tax deferments, phase-ins of any increases, and working to maximize enrollment in monthly installment payment plans and the senior freeze program.”

“These are all options which City Council has previously taken action on to protect homeowners from the impact of rising property taxes. We intend to examine every option at our disposal to protect Philadelphia homeowners.”

The statement was signed by Clarke as well as Council Majority Leader Cherelle L. Parker (9th District), Deputy Majority Whip Mark Squilla (1st District), and Councilmembers Kenyatta Johnson (2nd District), Allan Domb and David Oh (At Large).

In a release following a news briefing on the reassessments, Mayor Kenney and finance officials said the increased property assessments were expected to generate approximately $460 million in added tax revenue over the next five years – which the administration is proposing to return to taxpayers through wage tax reductions ($260 million) as well as an array of mitigating measures to address higher property taxes ($200 million).

“Our Administration looks forward to working with our partners in City Council to do everything in our power to protect homeowners affected by this long-term boom in the real estate market,” said Mayor Kenney. “But homeowners deserve protections, which is why I am proposing $200 million in new homeowner and rent relief over five years.
“At the same time, the additional revenues resulting from these rising values present an opportunity to reduce the most onerous of the City’s taxes, the Wage Tax, by $260 million.”

The citywide property reassessments will be front and center in Council on Monday, May 9, when the Office of Property Assessment comes before Council’s Committee of the Whole to testify on its proposed budget for FY2023.

COUNCILMEMBERS REACT TO LEAKED SUPREME COURT DRAFT OPINION TO OVERTURN ROE V. WADE

Following news reports of a leaked draft opinion from the U.S. Supreme Court – in which a majority of five Justices seems ready to vote to overturn a 50-year-old constitutional precedent affording women the right to obtain an abortion, protests gripped the nation, including in Philadelphia. At Thursday’s Council Meeting, protests turned to legislative action, as Councilmember Helen Gym (At Large), introduced a resolution to hold hearings into how city government could protect a woman’s right to choose whether or not to have an abortion in Philadelphia. Gym’s resolution passed in Council on Thursday and she posted the following on Twitter later that day.

“Today in City Council, I introduced a resolution calling for hearings to assess the impacts on our city should Roe v. Wade be repealed, and explore the proactive steps we can take to safeguard civil rights, to end criminalization of bodies, and to advance reproductive justice.”

Earlier in the week, Councilmember Kendra Brooks (At Large) issued a statement pledging her support for reproductive rights.

“Abortion is still legal, but it is clearly under attack. I resolve to fight alongside leaders in the reproductive justice movement for the future that our kids, grandkids, and communities deserve—where people have autonomy over their bodies, agency over their healthcare, and access to the fully-funded public goods they need to live healthy, empowered, self-fulfilled lives,” Brooks said. She also appeared at a rally at City Hall on Tuesday alongside other members and advocates.

SEEN ON SOCIAL MEDIA…

COUNCIL REMAINS FOCUSED ON QUALITY OF LIFE ISSUES, ABANDONED CARS AND ILLEGAL DUMPING

In a Public Safety Committee hearing on Thursday, committee members heard testimony from residents about chronic problems with abandoned cars littering neighborhoods,and of sites around Philadelphia where offenders illegally dump trash and construction debris that contributes to feelings of civic abandonment and malaise.

A bill sponsored by Council President Clarke – to give still-to-be-hired Public Safety Enforcement Officers the authority to ticket and tow abandoned cars – moved favorably from committee to the full Council for consideration.

Then, the committee heard testimony on an initiative from Councilmember Jamie Gauthier (3rd District) to higher levels of city resources invested in responding to quality of life issues in Black and Brown neighborhoods too often neglected.

Gauthier and Committee Chair Curtis Jones, Jr. (4th District), examined enforcement practices, preventative measures, and potential solutions needed to address illegal dumping.

The hearing was part of Councilmember Gauthier’s #JustServicesPHL initiative, which calls for major investments to address quality-of-life concerns in under-served neighborhoods across Philadelphia.

Councilmember Parker also introduced legislation Thursday relating to quality of life – legislation to increase penalties for illegal dumping.

The legislation allows for the increase of the total fine amount for illegal dumping violations. Currently, the potential fine for illegal dumping without using a vehicle is $2,000. The potential fine for illegal dumping using a vehicle is $5,000. With this legislation, every single large item of debris, such as a tire, auto part, mattress, appliance, or bag of debris or trash with a capacity of more than 5 gallons, shall now be subject to a violation. For example, currently, if twenty tires are dumped using a vehicle, the total fine amount is $5,000. Under this legislation, the new fine amount could reach $100,000.

“We’re cracking down on people and companies who do not properly dispose of their trash,” said Councilmember Parker.” Not only is dumping an irresponsible business practice, but it’s also disrespectful to the community. The trash left behind is harmful, unsightly, and premeditated. This legislation makes every item within a single dump subject to a violation.”

Parker noted that her Philadelphia Neighborhood Safety and Community Policing Plan, unveiled last month, calls for funding to address quality-of-life issues such as blight, graffiti, trash dumping, abandoned cars, potholes, and tractor-trailers parked in residential neighborhoods.

IN OTHER NEWS…

Parking Authority Relinquishes Disputed Claim on $11 Million in School District Funding. In an about-face, new leadership of the Philadelphia Parking Authority relinquished its earlier claim that $11 million in funds it sent to the School District of Philadelphia were somehow “over-paid” and needed to be repaid to the Authority.  Once authority officials reversed that position this week, Councilmembers responded.

“Every dollar or amount of revenue delivered to the School District should remain with the School District, so it can deliver on its primary responsibility of educating every child in its schools,” Council President Clarke’s statement said. “We commend the new leadership of the Parking Authority for reaching this joint agreement to leave the money with the School District where it belongs, and hope it signals a new era of accountability to Philadelphia residents and their schoolchildren.”

Councilmember Gym – a persistent critic of the Parking Authority – said in her statement about the authority’s reversal of its position. “From the beginning, I made it clear that the Parking Authority was never going to take a single dollar back from our schools. Today’s concession by the PPA, a $10.8 million reversal, proves they egregiously overstepped and once again, underestimated the power of our school communities.”

“We must get to the bottom of how this request came to be, and determine whether the School District is actually owed funds by the PPA,” Gym said. “My Council investigation will be moving forward with an official hearing next month in order to understand how the PPA is actually spending and accounting for the hundreds of millions of dollars that they collect from Philadelphians every year.”

 Ongoing Council Budget Hearings Will Examine Citywide Property Reassessments. The next date for Council’s ongoing budget hearings is Monday, May 9, when Council will consider the budget of the Office of Property Assessment. Council will hear public testimony that same day on the various tax bills proposed by the Kenney Administration for the FY23 budget. The morning hearings start at 10 am. The dates and times for all budget hearings can be found in the FY2023 Budget Center at www.PHLCouncil.com/Budget2023.

The public can watch budget hearings on Xfinity Ch. 64, Fios Channel 40, and stream at www.PHLCouncil.com/watch.

OTHER SIGHTS AND SOUNDS FROM THE COUNCIL WEEK

Joint Committee on Finance, Transportation and Public Utilities 4-29-2022

Committee on Labor and Civil Service 5-2-2022

FY2023 Budget Hearings – Mural Arts, Free Library 5-3-2022

FY2023 Budget Hearings – SEPTA, Parks and Recreation 5-3-2022

FY2023 Budget Hearings – School District of Philadelphia 5-4-2022

FY2023 Budget Hearings – School District Public Testimony, Community College 5-4-2022

Stated Meeting of Philadelphia City Council 5-5-2022

PHILADELPHIA FACTS AND FIGURES

Source: School District of Philadelphia City Council Budget Presentation, May 4, 2022

The next Stated Meeting of City Council is scheduled to take place on Thursday, May 12, 2022 at 10 a.m. The Meeting will be held remotely due to the ongoing pandemic, and will air on Xfinity Ch. 64, Fios Channel 40 and stream at www.PHLCouncil.com/watch.

Featured Photo: Visit Philadelphia

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