With the Philadelphia School District facing a $629 million dollar deficit, School Superintendent Arlene Ackerman has requested $75 – $110 million from the City of Philadelphia to help plug some of that gap. Mayor Nutter has offered two options to raise these funds for the School District: a 10 percent increase in property taxes or a 2-cents-per-ounce tax for sugary beverages. Anyone else experiencing déjà vu?

That’s because Nutter introduced similar proposals just a year ago, with Council passing a two-year “temporary“ 9.9-percent property tax increase and neglecting to vote on the sugary beverage tax in the face of vocal opposition. If Council passes any tax increase, it will represent yet another blow for an already overburdened tax base.

Call us crazy, but we see two far more palatable solutions to this problem. Ready Mr. Mayor?

1)   The City of Philadelphia owns, through a few different agencies, over 10,000 properties. Hundreds of those properties are parks, recreation centers, and public spaces of other types. As for the rest of the City owned properties, SELL THEM NOW!!! While the City has sold a handful of properties in the past couple of years, City bureaucracy and unhurried district Councilpeople have prevented this sensible policy from being enacted on the much larger scale that we need.

2)   Before raising property taxes, collect delinquent property taxes. We’re not talking about just a few bucks here- we’re talking about a sum that runs into the tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars.  Property owners can’t pay? Can’t be found? No sweat. How about a fast-tracked sheriff’s sale process? Start in zip codes with the highest property values, and work our way down. And guess what? If you hold the hammer of possible sheriff sale over delinquent property owners’ heads, you just might see people paying a little more attention to paying those taxes.

One other thing to keep in mind, Mayor Nutter:

Please don’t think that recently registered Independent John Street isn’t paying very careful attention to what’s going on here. And don’t fool yourself into thinking that Street wouldn’t put together a platform that aggressively paints you as a tax-increase hungry Mayor. And don’t for a moment think that IF John Street runs for Mayor, he can’t possibly win.

We’ll say this concisely, people: If Mayor Nutter pushes another property tax hike or a sugary beverage tax through, that COULD be the opening John Street needs to launch a campaign for a THIRD TERM AS MAYOR.

So please, Mister Mayor. Figure out another way. Do it for the children. Do it for us. Do it for yourself. We know you can do better. And we also know who could do worse.

Our next Mayor?

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