CITY COUNCIL'S preliminary approval of a 9.9 percent increase in property taxes has Philly neighborhoods wondering who's in and who's out.
Patricia Freeland, of the Spring Garden Civic Association, said her neighborhood has successfully recruited new residents, but with the threat of the increased property tax she's not sure who will stay.
"The city needs to be careful about raising taxes on property, because it will chase a lot of people out of the city," she said. "Through our efforts we have brought a lot of people into the city who did not live in the city before and pay [our] taxes."
With Council's preliminary approval of a $3.9 billion budget last Thursday, Philadelphia is facing a temporary two-year 9.9 percent property-tax increase to generate city revenue. Council will vote today on finalizing the budget, including the increase.
For Spring Garden, some feel the property-tax hike might end its progress. "We've had a period of significant revitalization," Freeland said. "Raising taxes will have people leaving again."
A similar situation could play out in other neighborhoods.
"This can be an eviction notice for some of our older members," said Andrew Dalzell, of the South of South Neighborhood Association.
Dolores Barbieri, of the Somerton Civic Association, said the tax would hurt mainly senior citizens on fixed incomes.
"They can't just adjust when taxes go up," she said. "This is going to be really bad if it passes, because Philadelphia has a lot of senior citizens."
Calvin Jackson, a senior citizen from West Philly living on a fixed income, said his money was going to be tight.
"City Council gets a raise every year or every two years," Jackson said. "They're making all this money and killing all of us poor people."
Tony Dominick, of the Powelton Village Civic Association, said he doesn't know anyone in his community who would want to spend money on another tax.
"It's going to be one more thing people need to pay," he said. "People are just going to voice their concerns about paying more, which they don't want to do."
Dominick said the motive behind the tax increase doesn't seem to be to improve communities.
"I haven't seen reasoning for the increase," he said. "They're trying to make up the budget, and I guess that's through property taxes. They're scrambling."
With funds for the budget out of reach, the city is getting desperate for money, Barbieri said.
"Just think of all the ridiculous taxes they are trying to impose, like the soda and trash tax," she said. "People become obese plenty of other ways. Why not tax the doughnut shops?"
Susan Buchanan, of Mount Airy, said she wouldn't mind paying the property tax over the other proposed fees.
"The soda tax would be more expensive," she said. "And the trash tax is unrealistic. I would rather pay the property-tax increase."
Raising the property tax would come with certain expectations, some civic leaders say.
Residents will want changes in their communities, said Penelope Giles, founder and executive director of the Francisville Neighborhood Development Corp.
"It's sort of a double-edged sword, because obviously there are more reasons than just the city needs to raise additional revenue," Giles said.
"Increasing property taxes is what helps them pay for city services, schools and things like that. The other side of that is how owners of lower income levels struggle to pay those higher taxes."
Michelle Schubert, who lives in the Northeast, said she wouldn't mind paying the tax if she knew it would directly help her family and community.
"I have children, so I would like to see the money go to education," she said. "But I can't control how they spend the money."
Giles said that despite the challenge of paying more money to the city, her community would be able to handle it.
"I don't think that's unreasonable," she said. "People push back whenever taxes increase because they don't want to pay higher taxes. But I don't think it's going to have a major, major impact."
In fact, some residents said they were willing to pay for the increase. Buchanan said the city needs help and financial support.
"I don't mind paying it," she said. "The city needs money."