Council OKs $3.8 billion spending plan

Posted: June 21, 2013

IN ITS LAST SESSION before summer recess, City Council gave the final OK yesterday to a $3.8 billion spending plan and two measures that would provide relief to homeowners impacted by the city's new property-tax system, the Actual Value Initiative.

One bill would provide relief to low-income, longtime homeowners in gentrifying neighborhoods, and the other would allow eligible property owners to defer any amount exceeding 2 1/2 times their current bill.

"[These] bills will put us in a position where individuals who generally can't pay their tax bill will be able to get some relief," said Council President Darrell Clarke.

Last week, Council approved a 1.34 percent property-tax rate and a homestead exemption that will knock $30,000 off a homeowner's assessment.

"We have fixed a broken, damaged and unfortunately corrupt property-assessment system in the city of Philadelphia," Mayor Nutter said, calling it "a major achievement."

In other developments:

* With an effort afoot in Harrisburg to raise a significant amount of money for the struggling school district, Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez pulled a bill that would increase a business tax to help fund schools.

"Harrisburg is very close to what would be a historic, onetime serious allocation of school resources to the city of Philadelphia," she said. "And I do not want to jeopardize and give anyone an excuse, who is not looking out for the best interest of Philadelphia, not to do what is their obligation to do, which is appropriately fund the Philadelphia School District."

Parents and school advocates urged Council to support the bill, which would have raised $30 million for schools. Some members worried about the impact her bill would have on businesses, especially since Council increased the tax last year. A portion of her bill that provides a $2,000 exemption to small business to help blunt the impact of AVI was recently approved.

* The 2014 fiscal year operating budget includes no major cuts and no major spending initiatives. Some city departments will get more cash.

The budget includes more than $100 million to cover the result of labor negotiations, including $47.5 million to cover the costs associated with a failed appeal of the firefighter's arbitration award and $37.2 million to pay for future contracts with the city's blue- and white-collar unions and firefighters. They have been without a contract since 2009.

The police and fire departments will get more money for additional cops and firefighters.

The Department of Public Health and the Office of Supportive Housing will get $1.3 million to cover federal funding cuts, the Revenue Department will get $1.2 million to improve delinquent tax collection, the Free Public Library will get $1 million to expand hours, the Office of Property Assessment will get $1.7 million and the Department of Licenses and Inspections will get $781,000 to hire extra code-enforcement and building inspectors.

Council also approved a $3.2 billion capital budget, which will pay for improvements to Philadelphia International Airport, police and fire stations, libraries and dozens of other city-owned facilities.


On Twitter: @Jan_Ransom

Blog: ph.ly/PhillyClout

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