City Council voted Thursday to pass a budget for next fiscal year in what President Darrell Clarke called “a true compromise” on which nearly all members agreed. The most notable exception was Councilman Bill Green, who voted against the 3.6 percent real estate tax increase and approval of the operating budget.
Green last week said “no” to raising the use and occupancy tax on businesses by nearly 18 percent. A combined $40 million in revenue from the two tax hikes will go to the School District.
“I voted ‘no’ on taxes this year because a line must be drawn and I draw the line here,” he said. “The ‘drip, drip, drip’ of taxes must stop. … It’s time to stop dipping into the well that provides the water torture of another new tax every year.”
Half of the money headed to the School District will be doled out by Council in accountability grants after the District meets certain criteria, which Council will determine over the summer, according to Councilman Kenyatta Johnson. “The taxpayers want a return on their investment,” he said.
The tax increases were passed in lieu of Mayor Michael Nutter’s proposed Actual Value Initiative, through which he hoped to generate $94 million for the schools by basing real estate taxes on new assessments accurately reflecting properties’ market values. Council committed to completing the overhaul next year. Nutter would not comment about signing the budget.
“My main goal, obviously, was to delay AVI for a year to have the proper data in place and the proper safeguards for residents of this city,” Councilman Mark Squilla said.
He added “most residents would be happy … because we can make sure they’re not slammed when AVI is implemented.”
Council-SRC spat continues
Though the School District pledged to increase transparency and accountability, doubt still lingered among Council members Thursday. They were particularly displeased with the School Reform Commission’s method of selecting a new superintendent from two finalists announced last week, in what Councilman Dennis O’Brien called a “drive-by process.”
“It was unforgivable to give us 24 hours’ notice,” Councilwoman Marian Tasco said. “That was a disservice to us, particularly as they are asking us to provide money for the district. Hopefully, we’re not starting off on the wrong foot.”