The trash fee ain't a done deal.
A week after Mayor Nutter proposed a $300 trash fee to help fill a budget gap, Councilman Frank DiCicco said he was reviewing whether a property-tax increase would be a better option.
"I've been discussing the possibility of a real estate- tax increase," Dicicco said, adding that he had spoken with fellow Council members and the administration about the idea.
This is a change from last year when Council blocked the mayor's attempt to raise property taxes to help fill a budget gap, instead endorsing a plan to temporarily hike the sales tax and borrow from the pension fund.
But DiCicco said that this year a property-tax increase makes more sense than the flat-rate trash fee. DiCicco said that with a property-tax increase, there would be more protections for low-income families and senior citizens, while others could deduct the amount on their tax returns.
"If you do a trash fee, individual homeowners will not be able to write that off," DiCicco said.
Nutter proposed a $300 trash fee for homeowners - with a $200 rate available to some low-income families - combined with a tax on sugary beverages to help close an expected $150 million gap in the city's budget in the fiscal year that begins July 1.
DiCicco said that based on data provided by the city, he thought that an overall increase of about 12 percent above the current rate - with all new money going to the city - would generate the $107 million that the trash fee would have provided annually.
The city property-tax proceeds are split, with 60 percent going to the school district and 40 percent to the city.
Last year, critics of a proposed property-tax hike - including some Council members - said it was unfair to increase the rates when the assessment system was widely agreed to be broken. A recent Inquirer series chronicled the legacy of political patronage and inaccurate assessments at the Board of Revision of Taxes.
Council last year passed legislation to abolish the BRT and replace it with two new entities, which will go before voters in May. Reassessments have been frozen until the system is overhauled.
But DiCicco said the city has limited options.
"Reality is here. We have a major budget deficit," DiCicco said.
Finance Director Rob Dubow said, "We'll listen to any ideas that the Council members have, but we haven't seen the details of any proposal."
He wouldn't comment on the merits of a property-tax increase compared with a trash fee.
"Personally, I'm prepared to look at all options," Councilman Darrell Clarke said. "I think the trash tax is a real-estate tax, a wolf in sheep's clothing so to speak. But it's not done in a fair and equitable manner."
Councilman Jim Kenney agreed that a real-estate-tax boost might be preferable.
"I think it's spread more evenly and it's easier to collect."