City Council spars with mayor, each other over proposed property tax assessments

City Council President Darrell Clarke introduced a packet of bills Thursday intended to cushion the blow of the Nutter administration’s proposed Actual Value Initiative of property tax assessments.

“The legislation has been introduced. I don’t know what’s going to happen – no one does,” Clarke said of AVI, calling the state’s role in the initiative, such as approving its homestead exemption, a “rolling ball.”

Clarke’s proposals include real estate tax credits for certain low income citizens, exemptions for long-term owner occupied properties and a provision allowing for installment payments. “Whatever ends up happening, this provides support to individual citizens who can’t pay their taxes,” he said.

Councilman Bill Green was a vocal AVI critic Thursday following a hearing the day before during which he claimed officials were unable to provide him with the data or deadlines necessary to estimate the shift’s impact.

“Yesterday, the administration scared me straight,” Green said. “There are a lot of uncertainties and everything will have to go exactly right and on schedule. That has not been my experience with government in the last four years and that has not been my experience with this administration.”

“Council will rue the day it takes an uninformed vote on the most significant issue, at least since I’ve been in Council. … The absence of such information is the administration’s responsibility based on their chosen timetable, and it feels purposeful.”

A separate piece of legislation earmarks for the embattled School District an estimated $94 million from taxing properties based on their full market value. Officials reportedly said at a meeting Tuesday that, without the additional revenue, schools may be unable to open in the fall.

“I’m fearful of losing a whole generation of young people due to someone’s ineptitude, whether it’s the school administration or someone else that failed to hold them accountable. The children will not be the fall guy,” Councilman Curtis Jones said, adding that Council members needed to “man up.”

Green shot back that school funding and the property tax assessment shift are two separate issues. “I’ll be happy to man up on both,” he said.