Tax increase unpopular with city residents
Wednesday, September 18, 2013 1:00 AM
Philadelphians are expressing overwhelming displeasure with the tax hike aldermen approved 3-2 last week, prompting the mayor to say this week he feels like one of the loneliest men in town.
Molly Myers is among the unhappy residents.Ê
"I don't think it's fair to the taxpayers of this city to have to carry the burden of bad money management by the city," she said. "Why not wait to see what kind of money comesÊin from the new alcohol sales?"
Philadelphians in June voted overwhelming to allow the sale of liquor and wine inside the city limits and the first liquor opened on Aug. 28.
The tax increase will generate about $565,000 and was necessary to close six years of deficit spending, officials said.
Myers pointed to failures like AlphaGen that are a concern.
"Several folks who are paid very well to bring in jobs aren't doing their jobs. It's very frustrating and I am very angry! Where isÊthe accountability? The city leadership needs to prove they're doing their job. Show me why you should have your job cause I sure didn't vote for you!"
The city portion of the 2014 tax bill residents will receive this December will double. (See illustration, page 9A.)
City schools account for most of the overall taxation in Philadelphia, rising 65 percent since 2000.
A total of 63.6 mills are levied for the schools, compared to 20 now for the general fund that operates the city.
AlphaGen which formally announced nearly four year ago that it would open a plant in the former U. S. Motors building and bring up to 200 new jobs has yet to materialize.
Mayor James A. Young said he was both hopeful and frustrated.
"It's been too long without any movement and want to see whether they are coming and going. We are waiting on a response. We've done all we can do. and are now just sitting and waiting."
The Community Develop-ment Partnership with a budget of $304,800 is officially in charge of economic development.
Myers and others suggest jobs growth and not a tax increase is more optimal.
Readers like Kyle James defended the CDP and its work, saying residents should be doing everything they can to support the CDP and working together as one to improve the look and image of the town. (See reader reactions, page 5A.)
Amy Edwards expressed concern about the size of the tax increase. Other readers don't believe aldermen made a legitimate attempt to cut spending.
"The people in our city are barely getting by and now they have doubled yet another bill for us," Edwards said. "I do not think that we did enough research for other options to fix the problem."
Debbie NicholsonÊexpressed support for fire and police raises. City raises in the $7.4 million budget totaled $49,546.
A major debt obligation readers mentioned that's strained city finances is the 2006 parks improvements project at $325,000 annually through 2020.
Among other big-ticket items are loan payments on a fire engine and rescue unit that annually amount to $71,868 and $35,702 respectfully.
For a $112,920 home, the tax hike will mean an additional $112.92 in city taxes.
The bill will be bigger for commercial owners.
One major retailer will see its city taxes rise from $19,359.05 to $38,718.08. Another would go from $17,665.25 to $35,330.50.
The owner of a $152,000 commercial building would see city taxes increase from $228.30 to $456,60.
The tag on an 18-wheeler could go up as much as $1,500.
City taxes on a new 2014 Chevrolet Silverado four-wheel-drive crew cab truck would go from $52.90 to $105.80.
Stanley Tolbert and his wife, owners of a west Philadelphia car wash, were among the business owners who pleaded with the Mayor and Board of Aldermen during a Sept. 3 public hearing not to raise taxes.
The couple said they were already struggling to pay their taxes from the past year which are currently delinquent.
"You are doubling them and we have nothing to fall back on," Mrs. Tolbert said. "I am being very honest with you."
"We are begging," Mr. Tolbert said. "I know you have an operation to run but we are trying to survive too."
Philadelphia's total 83.6-mill levy makes residents among the highest taxed in the region. (See chart.)
The Philadelphia Public School District has an overall $10,745,071 budget. Of that, the city tax levy is $3,107,342.
There are about 1,225 students in the district.
By comparison, the Neshoba County School District has an overall budget of $27,228.74. The county tax levy is $3,213,681. That's about a 53 percent increase since 2002.
There are 3,310 students in the district.
The total Union Public School District budget is $7,603,603. Of that, the Neshoba County's tax levy is $366,835. That is about a 58 percent increase since 2002.
About 200 students from Neshoba County are in the Union district.
Mayor Young said Tuesday that he had received feedback both in favor of and against the tax increase.
He pulled his own tax records to see how much the increase would affect him personally, noting that it would be about $100.
"The business community on both sides is disgruntled," Young said. "Nobody wants to pay more. Some are OK and realize what we have to do. It's been mixed."
The two-term mayor said he realized much of the blame for the tax increase has been aimed at him.
"I feel like one of the loneliest men in town because I get the blame," Young said. "I just want to see our city continue to be stable. It's a tough choice."
Young said he was optimistic about the city's future, citing a rise in sales tax collections.
He doesn't think the tax increase will have a major effect on recruiting new business.
"We've got too much going for us," he said. "Good people, good location and a lot of positive things happening. We've got to put our best foot forward from the ground up and we are doing that."
The mayor pointed out that a large majority of the city's millage goes to the school district.
"We are going to have to find a way to get our schools in order," he said. "When you look at it overall, it's the school tax -- 62 plus mills for the school verses 20 for the city's general operating fund. When you look at the numbers, we are not far out of whack as far as general millage goes."