Philadelphia’s six newest City Council members push for real estate tax collection reform

Understanding that the city’s real estate tax collection system is unfair, the six freshman council members opened an investigation into the problem.

Yesterday Councilmembers Cindy Bass, Bobby Henon, Kenyatta Johnson, David Oh, Dennis O’Brien and Mark Squilla launched the Taxpayer Fairness Initiative. The proposal promises the six newest council members will investigate the issue of real estate tax delinquency and shed light on the problem.

The six say everyone should pay his or her fair share, and the city should collect what it’s owed. “It’s only fair,” is their battle cry.

Councilwoman Cindy Bass said it’s a partnership between all six of their offices.

“We’re going to going to combine our time, our resources and our energy to tackle what we believe is one of the most serious problems facing Philadelphia today,” Bass said.

The six introduced six resolutions yesterday authorizing City Council to hold a series of hearings on the issues.

In each of the Council Districts represented, which are the 1st, 2nd, 6th and 8th, officials will host public community meetings. Experts will be ushered in, and community members will be encouraged to ask questions. Residents will also be educated on how to take a delinquent vacant property to sale, and share thoughts about how these parcels might best be used.

Councilman David Oh said with the impending financial decisions looming on the horizon these unfair practices must be changed.

“Now going into this budget cycle where we will be asked to come up with more money for our schools and public services, it is not fair that not everyone is paying their taxes,” Oh said.

In addition, the six council members will take an in-depth look at Mayor Michael Nutter’s recently announced $40 million strategy to curb delinquent property tax payers. The mayor said the strategy will create 55 new jobs and will generate $260 million in revenue over the next five to six years.

Both proposals arrive as Nutter and the city prepares to integrate to the new property-tax system. The new system, called Actual Value Initiative, will be based on market values.

Councilman Kenyatta Johnson said he also thinks it’s important that “as part of this conversation that we take a look at some type of relief measures.”

“Really paying attention to those who will be significantly impacted that does not …. get a break based upon their income,” he said.

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