In a historic vote, Philadelphia's City Council this morning approved legislation 15-2 that would disband the embattled Board of Revision of Taxes on Sept. 30, 2010, pending approval of a majority of city voters in May's primary election.
The bill will replace the BRT, which sets property values for each piece of real estate in Philadelphia, with two new agencies. One, under the indirect authority of the mayor, will set property values in the future. The second agency, run by an independent board, would consider property assessment appeals.
For decades, the BRT has endured as one of the city's largest bastions of patronage, presiding over one of the nation's most inaccurate and inequitable property tax systems.
The BRT's property values bear little resemblance to the actual market value of real estate in the city, a failing which has lead hundreds of thousands of property owners to pay much more than their fair share in taxes, while many others have paid less then they would under a more equitable system. Past Inquirer stories have documented the failings of the BRT's assessment system, and chronicled widespread mismanagement and cronyism at the agency.
The Nutter administration has already assumed day-to-day control of the BRT's property assessment functions. But that arrangement, codified in a memorandum of understanding signed by both parties in October, is only temporary. The legislation council approved yesterday would make that arrangement permanent.
Council members Jannie Blackwell and Curtis Jones Jr. were the only dissenters. Because the bill amends the City Charter, the city's voters must also approve it before it takes effect. The council vote ensures that the question will appear on the May primary ballot.